It wasn’t quite the “Hello world” of Tiger Woods in 1996. Nonetheless, Trans World Sport’s feature on 13-year-old twins in rural Ireland taking the “junior golf world by storm” at least hinted at greater things to come. Now 26, Leona Maguire’s rise to the top has been steady rather than sharp; and completely by design.
Maguire was easily the star of the show as Europe retained the Solheim Cup in Toledo, Ohio. Four and a half points from a possible five rendered this one of the finest team golf debuts in history. “She is the one we are going to have to fear for a long time,” conceded the beaten United States captain, Pat Hurst.
As Maguire joined in the celebrations on the 18th green at the Inverness Club, draped in a flag of Ireland – she is the first from that country to play in a Solheim Cup – it was fitting that sister Lisa was by her side. “Now the whole world knows how incredible you really are,” tweeted Lisa. Too right they do.
“I don’t think you could have dreamed up something like this,” said Leona Maguire, who was a captain’s pick. “It has been a very special week. We were definitely the underdogs. To get the win is very, very special.
“I wasn’t just coming here to take part. I wanted to do something, I was here for a reason. Catriona [Matthew] and the vice-captains put a lot of trust in me, using me in all five matches and I wanted to win every single point I could. It has been amazing.”
Maguire smiles when it is pointed out that this rather begs the question of why she did not join the party sooner. She has heard it all before. Rather than turn professional at an early age, the County Cavan player completed her degree at Duke University in North Carolina. Not that books got in the way of her golf; she was the world’s top ranked female amateur for an astonishing and record 135 weeks.
“I had a plan,” Maguire explained. “My team around me had a plan. It was always important to me to get my education. I had a fantastic four years at Duke. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the choices I have made. Everything has been done meticulously, I have worked my way through every level, ticked every box and I think I stepped up another level this week. I have stuck to my guns, done everything I possibly can and it’s nice to be in this position now.”
Maguire does not seem to have looked on enviously at all as others younger and, candidly, less talented earned riches at a far younger age. “I won’t be any different after this,” she added. “I will keep going with the plan that I have. It has been working pretty well so far. I think I proved out there that I can compete with the best players in the world.”
Maguire, world No 43, credits Dermot Byrne, a highly-rated caddie who previously enjoyed success with Shane Lowry, as a “phenomenal” influence. “I am very lucky to have him by my side,” she said. There was pre-Solheim guidance, too, from Ireland’s 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
“He just emphasised the importance of being me,” said Maguire. “Being relentless, showing no mercy and doing what I do best. I felt I did a pretty good job of all that.”
Indeed, Maguire’s showing included two foursome victories against the world No 1, Nelly Korda. The first day result in particular was significant; Korda and her sister, Jessica, had won both their matches in the Solheim Cup of 2019.
“That gave us huge momentum,” said Maguire. “It was huge to take down the Korda sisters. There wasn’t a single easy match this week, everybody played such good golf. We won the trophy but women’s golf won this week. I think it has been a fantastic showcase of how good these girls are and this is week in, week out. It was great that everybody got to see it.
“I am competitive, I don’t like to lose. Match play is perfect for that, I gave it absolutely everything every time I played out there. It’s very satisfying to hole a putt when there’s people cheering against you. I was fortunate to have two great partners in Mel [Reid] and Georgia [Hall] as well, it wasn’t just me. You couldn’t have written it any better.”
The public chapter may have started at 13 but you get the unavoidable sense there is still much, more more to come.