by Ronan MacNamara
Cavan’s Leona Maguire will begin her 2022 LPGA Tour campaign at the Gainbrigde LPGA at Boca Rio Golf Club as she looks to build on a sensational rookie year on the LPGA Tour.
Maguire racked up five top-10 finishes and inspired Catriona Matthew’s European charges to a second-ever Solheim Cup victory on US soil, winning 4.5/5 points in a record-breaking performance by a rookie.
The Gainbridge LPGA returns to Boca Rio after a year in Lake Nona where Maguire finished in the top-20.
The 27-year-old missed the cut at this venue in 2020.
After the curtain-raiser at the Tournament of Champions last week, seven of the world’s top-10 tee it up in the first full field of the season.
Maguire is still searching for her maiden LPGA Tour win and arrives in Florida looking to shake off some early-season rust.
“This year it’s in Boca Rio where we were two years ago. So yeah, it’s a good golf course. It’s on the longer end and it’s going to be cold the first few mornings anyway.
“I’ll just try and work my way into it. There’ll be a little bit of rust there, no doubt it was nice last year starting in Lake Nona a course that I was fairly familiar with.
“I remember some of this golf course, but I’ll be preparing and putting the game plan together. Dermot [caddy] has been out walking the course. I am looking forward to getting started. You have to start somewhere so looking forward to seeing where my game is at and then we have three weeks off to fine-tune anything that needs to be worked on heading into the rest of the season,” she added.
After a breakthrough year in 2021 the Slieve Russell ambassador is looking to build on it and keep improving this season.
Maguire will also be helped by the fact she can play a reduced schedule, with a spot secured in all five major championships for the first time she doesn’t have to worry about playing her way into the big events.
“The big thing is a lot of the changes I made last winter really paid off. Switching my irons [to graphite] trying to get the greens in regulation stats up and that made a huge difference. My putting really helped as well and the little extra yardage I picked up off the tee.
“It has been a busy 2020 and 2021 it was all go. There wasn’t a lot of time throughout those two seasons. 2021 was a very successful year for me, delighted with how that went.
“I took a lot of positives out of that and have got to work on trying to improve a few things to be able to start the season as strongly as possible this year.”
Stephanie Meadow is also in Florida to get her 2022 season underway after securing her playing privileges in heroic fashion at the end of last season.
The Jordanstown native showed immense courage in 2019 and 2021 to keep her LPGA Tour card and is hoping that she can turn a corner this season and start enjoying her golf again.
“Hopefully I can give this season a run. It’s really hard being in the position I was in even though I’ve done it twice it really makes you never want to be in the position again so hopefully this will be the turning point where I don’t ever have to do that again but you never know,” she said.
World Number One Nelly Korda defends her title this week and she is looking to bounce back from disappointment at the Tournament of Champions where she was pipped to the post by Danielle Kang.