Leona Maguire admits winning on the LPGA Tour was something she spent a lifetime dreaming about, and now that she’s got over the line at the Drive On Championship, the Cavan star believes she’s only getting started.
Maguire made history on Saturday, becoming the first Irishwoman to win on the LPGA Tour with a resounding three-shot success over Lexi Thompson in Fort Myers, Florida.
For a first victory, it proved a relative procession, with Maguire’s five birdies from the seventh to 13th holes putting the tournament to bed. It was a manner of victory you’d associated with someone who spent 135 weeks atop the world amateur golf rankings, and although Maguire has had to be patient since turning pro – with two secondary tour wins on her CV as an LPGA triumph remained elusive – that patience has now paid off in spades.
“I think I’ve worked my way up the levels every time. It’s been a meticulous journey. I did it my way, the way I wanted to do it, with the help of my team around me,” she said.
“I feel like the way I’ve gone about it, I’ve been prepared at each level and mastered each level. I know people probably thought I was going to win before this. I was maybe getting a little impatient last year, but I think going down the stretch at Meijer last year with Nelly, that was a huge confidence boost for me.
“Knowing that, yeah, she was three shots ahead and I nearly closed the gap, but really felt like I held my own that week, and then the 61 at Evian too, and Solheim Cup was a massive confidence booster.”
“I put in a lot of hard work over this off-season. Felt like my game was close but was just missing something. You just need things to click together, hole those right putts at the right time, hit the right shots. I mean, it’s golf. It’s one of the most maddening games but one of the most rewarding at the same time.”
In her efforts to eke out the small margins that contributed to this victory, her long-time coach Shane O’Grady remained a constant support right up to an impromptu carpark conversation last Monday.
“I did FaceTime with Shane on the range on Monday afternoon. He was actually going to pick up his girls from school and he FaceTimed me from the carpark sitting outside the school,” Maguire revealed.
“Shane has been there from day one. He’s been a massive part of this journey. It’s those little things that you just need that little feeling sometimes for things to click.”
And click it clearly did, though another critical cog in this wheel of fortune is caddie Dermot Byrne, the former bagman of Shane Lowry who’s had an immense impact on Maguire’s results since teaming up with the Slieve Russell star.
“Dermot has been a massive help to me,” Maguire says. “I feel like Vegas was a turning point for me last year. Felt like I really let that one slip. That phone call to Dermot really sort of changed round the entire season. He’s been a part of a lot of big events, some big wins obviously with Shane.
“He’s had a great career as a caddie. He didn’t have to take my call. He took a big gamble coming out here on the LPGA never having done it before.
“I guess saw something in me. Felt like he could make a difference. I’m going to be forever grateful for him. It’s nice to have a fellow Irish person out here on the bag as well. I feel like we get each other sense of humour. We’re both pretty calm in demeanour. Dermot didn’t change last week when I was tied-80, whatever it was after the first day, versus coming down the last with a four-, five-shot lead, whatever it was. So, yeah, he’s been a huge help and lucky to have him.”
As for what’s next for Maguire, with no tournaments on the schedule for the next three weeks, she’ll enjoy this victory before returning to the grind, insisting her game is “by no means perfect”:
“I still feel like I could have played better golf, definitely holed more putts,” she said despite her 18-under, 54-hole winning total.
“I’ll just keep trying to improve all the time. Obviously Jin Young and Lydia [Ko] and Danielle [Kang] weren’t here this week, so just keep trying to raise my game and work my way up and try to put myself in this position as many more times as I can.”
Indeed, in an ominous social media post to her rivals, Maguire, who could move inside the top-20 in the world rankings off the back of this result, believes she’s only getting started.
“Dreamt about this moment for a long time and we’re only getting started,” she wrote. “Couldn’t have done it without the help of my incredible team & family.”
— Leona Maguire (@leona_maguire) February 6, 2022