Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow tee-off their 2020 LPGA Tour campaigns today as part of the first playing of the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, the first full-field event of the season.
For Maguire, who earned her promotion to the LPGA Tour via the Symetra Tour’s Order of Merit, event one marks the culmination of a journey first forged on the fairways of Slieve Russell as she dreamed of one day competing against the elite of the women’s game.
An amateur superstar having held top spot in the world rankings for a record 135 weeks, Maguire’s decision to move to America to take up a scholarship with Duke University was ultimately inspired by her ambition to one day compete on the LPGA Tour.
“That was the idea of going to college in the States, everything has been planned to lead up to this point and I’m so excited to get there,” she said.
It was the beginning of October when the Cavan professional officially graduated, so there has been an extended pre-season fuelled by new sponsor, Kinetica Sports in the lead-up to this week. However, the lengthy wait is over and that sense of anticipation is about to be replaced by some fast-paced globetrotting because following this week’s tournament in Florida, Maguire is set to return to the ISPS Handa Vic Open and the ISPS Australian Open for back-to-back events in Down Under before making the trip to Asia.
It’s a schedule that Stephanie Meadow will be familiar with having retained her LPGA Tour playing privileges in dramatic circumstances last term. Needing a season’s best finish to force her way into the top-100 on the money-list, it all came down to the final putt on the final hole in the final tournament for the Jordanstown native to retain her position on the most lucrative Tour in women’s golf.
Starting the week at number 112 on the money list, Meadow knew she needed at the very least a Top-10 placing at the Volunteers of America Classic and struck an opening round 63 to lead on day one.
However, rounds of 71 and 73 saw her lose pace with her required target until the 20×20 Ambassador, needing to birdie her final two holes in the tournament to have any chance at the top-100, delivered a most stunning finish, holing a sensational 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to move to 99th on the money-list and avoid returning to the LPGA Q-Series at the end of the year.
“Absolutely no words!!” said Meadow at the time. “I knew I needed that birdie and I did it. Earned back my full LPGA Tour status for 2020. What a day!”
Exactly what the presence of two Irish stars plying their trade on the LPGA Tour this season could mean for the next generation, only time will tell but with Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey and Auburn’s Julie McCarthy leading lights on the collegiate circuit already, and with the likes of Lurgan’s Annabel Wilson and Castlewarden’s Lauren Walsh making immediate impacts in their first semesters since making the move, the future is brighter than ever as Ireland’s women golfers look to further close the gap on the men.
The rest of the field
The 70th year of the LPGA kicked off last week with 2018 and 2019 winners teeing it up alongside celebrities at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. After seven playoff holes, Gaby Lopez hoisted the trophy on Monday morning in Orlando before driving down to Boca Raton.
The inaugural event at Boca Rio Golf Club this week features six players in the top 10 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in No. 3 Nelly Korda, No. 4 Danielle Kang, No. 5 Nasa Hataoka, No. 6 Sei Young Kim, No. 8 Brooke Henderson and No. 10 Lexi Thompson.
19-time LPGA Tour winner Inbee Park also graces the field which includes eight native Floridians: Lindy Duncan, Jaye Marie Green, Jessica Korda, Nelly Korda, Brittany Lincicome, Madison Pressel, Morgan Pressel and Lexi Thompson.
Let’s hope Leona and Stephanie can make their presence felt.
Full scoring HERE
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