It was the season Leona Maguire had been waiting for all her life, her rookie season on the LPGA. It got off to quite a start and in just her second event, the ISPS Handa Vic Open, the Cavan native finished in a tie for fourth place and got herself onto the money board with plenty more to come.
Now, like the rest of the country, the Davy brand ambassador is stuck at home trying to keep busy and ready for when the world changes once again.
“We’re all at home here in Cavan, all safe and healthy and that’s the main thing right now. I decided not to go back to the states as Cavan was the best place for me to be right now, until this all passes and listening to all the guidelines from all the doctors and professionals”, said the 25 year old, “I can practise a bit at home, I’ve been out in the back garden, I can hit balls into the back field as well. I can do my gym work and the board games have been taken down, there been a lot of card games as well, watching a bit of telly and just trying to keep everybody in good form and sane really through all this.”
Coming from a family of competitive golfers who is the most competitive at the board games?
“Mam is the least competitive, that’s the easiest one to answer, the rest of us are all pretty competitive. There has definitely been a few squabbles (laughs) but we’re all still talking which is a good thing – we’ll go again tonight.”
Irish people are a resilient bunch even when it comes to staying at home all day long. Is there a silver lining?
“The upside of all this is people staying at home have started to get really creative, there are a lot of school challenges going around on social media and it’s been fun for me to see little kids, boys and girls get out in the back garden tricking around whether its golf, soccer, football, camogie or tennis. Messing around with their brothers or sisters, their parents, hopping a ball against a wall, into hoops or into baskets or whatever it is, it’s so nice to see that going on and hopefully, that type of fun will continue after all this is over.”
Being an elite athlete and golfer it can't be easy maintaining such a high standard from your house.
“Right now it’s a case of making the most of everything, so I’m basically doing what I used to do in the morning before going to secondary school and in the evenings in the winter time. I have indoor putting mats and Dad has unearthed some of the nets from the garage, so I can chip and pitch into them and we have a field out the back, so I can hit up to a 7 iron into that. I do a lot of technique work, swing work in a mirror and sending videos to my coach Shane (O’Grady), just trying to keep the technique ticking over, just trying to treat it like a second off-season, staying sharp and in good shape.”
“For my gym work, I have some good equipment here that I would use in the winter time when I am home, so I was quite lucky that I had that. I can build up my strength and now it’s a question of building up the tank for when we are ready to go, it will be a lot of golf in a short space of time, so I need to ensure my body is as strong and healthy as possible for whenever we do start to play again, not only for my golf game but also to make sure I don’t get injured and break down especially if there are quite a few events in a row.”
Currently, your next tournament is in Tampa, Florida in May but that like all tournaments is subject to change.
“We’ve no idea of how many events will be played, we’ve no idea what way the tour is going to re-gig the money list or what it is going to take to keep your card or to qualify for the majors. It’s all up in the air right now, at least I have money in the bank, I have a footing on the money list and that’s not going to go away whenever we do start, I have something up there and something to build on.”
The PGA Tour informed its members that players currently ranked 1-150 in the FedEx Cup standings are entitled to receive a cash advance. Is there anything planned on the LPGA?
“We have heard the LPGA were going to give cash advances but we haven’t heard who’s entitled to it and how much it will be, but they have offered cash advances on future earnings, I’m not sure how it will work but they are definitely working on something similar to the PGA Tour although I don’t think the LPGA has a system in place for the caddies like the PGA Tour does.
“I have been in touch with my caddie, Gary (Marshall), he’s Scottish and he has been home like me since we came back from Australia and he has done some local caddying in Renaissance, the club beside him in Scotland. He’s just been doing some handy work and stuff around the house. He sent me pictures of his kitchen, the new presses and the painting he has been doing. It’s tough of golfers but even more so for caddies who rely on them for wages week to week.”
With no on-course earnings coming through the door, the importance of having great sponsors onboard takes on a whole new meaning.
“The support from Davy is massive, their support meant a lot to me since the start when I turned pro and even more so now. If we don’t play we don’t get paid, so if it wasn’t for my sponsors I would not have any income right now, so definitely couldn’t do it without them and it means a lot to me that they are standing by me right now. There are a lot of struggles in the world going on and Davy has had to adapt their business as well and hopefully we will all come out on this on other end much stronger. It definitely makes you appreciate how lucky you are in circumstances like this.”
While you have only been on the LPGA for a short time, what have you learnt?
“I wouldn’t say driving distance is the be-all and end-all. The best players are the ones with the best iron play and the best wedges and obviously holing most putts. Inbee Park is a prime example of that, she won the last event, the Aussie Open before everything shut down. The ladies game is a little different to the men’s in that it is not so much about power but more about precision and accuracy. You go up and down the range on the LPGA and you will see a lot of different swings and a lot of different ways to get it done and that’s one of the things I have learnt the best, sticking to what I do best rather than focusing to much on what other people are doing. My game has got me to this level and I do a lot of things very well. It’s just a case of ironing out the weakness more so than anything else and improving on my strengths. My strengths have always been my accuracy as opposed to distance. I’m definitely not short, I’ve realised that from the first few events when I played with longer hitters, I’m not at a disadvantage. It would be nice to have more length but it is not the limiting factor.”
Ladies sport is very much on the up whether it be soccer, boxing or darts. It has never been so popular on tv and shows how much the viewing public want to see more of it.
“I think the 20x20 campaign has been a phenomenal success, I think social media has helped a lot with it and I’ve said it before we have some of the best athletes in the world here in Ireland and a lot of them are female. In the Olympics a lot of our big medal hopes are ladies, Sanita (Pušpure, double world champion rower) was probably our biggest medal hope and you have Annalise Murphy (Irish sailor, who won a silver medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics) and Kellie ( Harrington, boxer). We have a lot of tremendous athletes here and the 20x20 campaign has given us the platform. We’ve always had great athletes.”
“It was really nice for me down in Australia to have Sonja O’Sullivan to come out and watch me even though she is not from the same sport, she is still a legend of Irish sport and to have her out walking the fairways with me was pretty special.”
The International Olympic Committee, which postponed the Summer Games last week and announced on Monday that the contest in Japan will be held 23rd July to 8th August 2021. Were you surprised?
“It was inevitable, I don’t think it was a surprise for any of us or me, it’s another year to prepare, to get ready and make sure my game is even better than it would have been, so hopefully it’s another year of professional golf under my belt and more experience. Japan loves their golf, golf is going to be massive in the Tokyo Olympics, they are going to have huge crowds, they have pumped a lot of money into all the sports but golf in particular. I’m sure it’s going to be a big spectacle when it eventually goes ahead and I just need to be as ready as I can this time next year.”
“I’ve always looked at the Olympics as the biggest sporting event in the world, every young kid knows what a gold medal in the Olympics means, you grow up watching it on tv. For me, I was big into swimming when I younger so I always wanted to be an Olympian. I thought it was going to be in swimming, I didn’t think it was going to be in golf.”
“I remember watching Sonia in Sydney and I know exactly where I was when I watched Katie (Taylor) win her gold medal in London. Those memories stay with you and for me, the Olympics has always been a big thing. For some golfers, it isn’t and that’s a personnel decision some of them have to make. If you asked me what would I rather win a major or a gold medal, I’d take an Olympic gold medal. That’s my personnel preference, it only happens every four years and in this case, five and everyone is really looking forward to it. It is a symbol of hope, triumph against adversity and will be even more relatable now than ever.”
'Leona Maguire is a Davy brand ambassador. Davy, Ireland’s leading wealth management provider, continues to back world class Irish talent and is committed to supporting Leona through her professional career and personal life.’