Even for a player ranked at the very top of the amateur game for a record total of 135 weeks, the step-up to professional golf can prove difficult.
For a time this year, Leona Maguire’s mesmeric talents had transferred seamlessly to the paid circuit. In May, the Cavan professional had set the standard on the Symetra Tour’s season money-list with $73,790 earned from just six starts.
That amount would’ve place her at No. 5 in the final 2018 standings, when total purses were only $3.15 million, but with prize pots increasing this term, the former Duke University star now sits in 7th spot having amassed $84,757 from 14 events played.
Another missed cut, this time at the Guardian Classic makes it two in Leona’s last three events on the Symetra with a tie for 59th at the Garden City Classic sandwiched in between.
There was a missed cut back on the Ladies European Tour in August too with Maguire in the midst of a first real slump since turning professional in May last year. It’s a reminder, not that she needed one, of the constant demands that this sport puts on players looking to make the grade.
Thankfully, time should be on Maguire’s side in 2019. This week’s IOA Golf Classic in Florida is the penultimate event of the season before the Symetra Tour Championship at Daytona Beach on October 3.
With Maguire $17,678 ahead of Kyung Kim in 11th place on the Volvik Race for the Card standings, where the top-10 earn an LPGA card for next season, her status looks assured; but how important might a confidence boosting performance prove knowing that her jump to the LPGA Tour will be her most challenging yet?
Recognising the pertinence of these last two weeks, Maguire has called in reinforcements with coach Shane O’Grady making the trip across the Atlantic to aid in her LPGA Tour mission.
“My coach [Shane O’Grady] made the trip to Longwood and it is really good to have him here, work on some things to finish strong over the last two events,” said Maguire, one of five two-time winners on the Symetra Tour this season.
“I’ve worked with him since I was 11 years old, so he knows my game pretty much better than anyone else. It’s going to be a battle to the end, but I’ve put myself in good positions all year long and have it in me to do so a couple more times.”
From 1999-2002, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA handed out three cards. Then from 2003-2007, that number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Since the inaugural year, a total of 147 players have graduated to the big stage. Let’s hope Leona can add her name to a growing list and see out what’s been a coming-of-age season on tour.