The Irish Girls’ Close Championship is hosted by Galway Golf Club this week where the next Irish Champion will follow in the footsteps of Stephanie Meadow, who won the event in 2006, and Lisa Maguire (2008), Julie McCarthy (2013) and Annabel Wilson (2014 and 2015).
One player missing from the Championship past winners’ list is, surprisingly given her resumé, Leona Maguire but two players in this week’s field had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the former world amateur number one and LPGA Symetra Tour member at a recent visit to PGA National Slieve Russell.
“The only time I had ever saw her before was in Dun Laoghaire at the Curtis Cup,” said Beth Coulter (Kirkstown Castle). “Today I thought her swing was class, I asked her about her preparation and her yardages, she was very easy to talk to and was really nice.”
“As long as I’ve played golf, I don’t remember not knowing about Lisa and Leona,” said 18-year-old Leah Temple Lang (Elm Park). “I am starting college in the US later this year so I asked her about being over there, the different grasses and travel – she was so nice and went really in depth to explain how you might play different shots around the greens.”
The 20×20 Campaign, launched by the Federation of Irish Sport last October, aims to increase media coverage, participation and attendance at key women’s sports events. Leona Maguire, in addition to Meadow, are two of six Ambassadors for the campaign and both Coulter and Temple Lang acknowledge how important role models, particularly Irish ones, can be.
“It’s great to watch the likes of Lexi Thompson or Stacey Lewis playing, but they’re not from the same place as you. Leona and Lisa are from an hour away from where I started playing golf in Seapoint – it’s easy to see where they’re coming from and it’s more relatable,” explained Temple Lang.
“Hearing how brilliantly they were doing when I was growing up, two girls from Ireland playing all over the country, Europe and the World. That really gets you going, you think ‘I could do that!’”
Maguire was herself impressed by the calibre of players visiting her home club.
“I was really impressed! The girls can all hit it really well and I suppose it brought me back to when I first started, obviously Beth and Leah are doing what I did, working their way up and on Irish teams and heading off to different competitions, it’s great to see.”
Interprovincial and International players in their own right, what do Coulter and Temple Lang think of themselves as role models?
“No that feels really weird!” laughed Coulter. “I’ve never really thought about it like that!”
“I think I see it as being someone younger players can talk to, to be their friend more than a role model,” said Temple Lang.
For Lisa and Leona Maguire, the ultimate dream was to turn professional following their outstanding amateur careers, but is that dream the same for all?
“I’d love to go to college like they did and hopefully it can work out as good as it did for them,” said Coulter. “Then I would love to turn Professional, but I think it’s really important for us to have role models like the twins because they’ve been through the exact same things that we’re going through. Same tournaments, in the same places, so it’s good for us to follow and look up to them.”
For Temple-Lang, the future looks different, but no less acceptable.
“I don’t think I could hack being a Professional, I don’t have the patience,” she smiled. “I want to play to the best of my personal ability, go to college and see where that brings me. I just want to be the best I can be.”
The Irish Girls’ Close Championship stroke play qualifying takes place on Tuesday 16th July while the match play stages commence on Wednesday.