By Bernie McGuire in Saudi.
The Irish PGA Tour-winning duo of Shane Lowry and Seamus Power have been singing the praises of Leona Maguire following her historic maiden LPGA triumph.
Lowry is also doubly delighted for Maguire’s caddy, Dermot Byrne who is a long-time former caddy to Lowry.
Maguire created Irish women’s golfing history by capturing a maiden Tour title at the LPGA Drive On Championship by three shots from America’s darling Lexi Thompson at Fort Myers in Florida.
On the day prior to her mother’s birthday, the undefeated star of last year’s victorious European Solheim Cup team, posted a final round 67 in the three-round event.
In the process, the 27-year-old equalled her career-best 54-hole low on the LPGA Tour (198) and also earned a cool $225,000 first prize cheque.
“I am delighted for Leona and also delighted for Dermot but what a performance from Leona,” said Lowry after finishing in a share of 14th in Sunday’s concluding Saudi International.
“She was World No. 1 ranked amateur for three years and to be the first Irish-born woman to win on the LPGA Tour is outstanding, and I’m so happy for her.
“I have to say, her win doesn’t come as a surprise to me because I have been talking a lot with Dermot and it did seem just a matter of time, and on top of her efforts in the Solheim Cup, it’s going to be another huge lift for women’s golf in Ireland.
“Looking back, she had a decent season last year, without winning whilst there was a great last round at the Evian, so delighted for her.”
And while Lowry captured a maiden tournament at 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, and then won three years later as a pro at the 2012 Portugal Masters, he believes the golf world could see Maguire also move forward to become a multiple LPGA winner.
“I’m sure winning a first pro title will be a monkey off her back and I know I wasn’t expecting to win at Baltray, but then we each expect more of ourselves when we win and Leona will be the same,” said Lowry.
“Though when you do get your first win, it doesn’t make it any easier going forward and trying to win more. It just makes you want it more. People might say to you ‘well, you’ve won now so you can relax’ but we all want more when we win.
“That’s just the way this game is and you can spend your whole career wanting more, but then what I do know of Leona is she is a very level-headed young woman.
“When I first spoke to Dermot about Leona, and that was at last year’s Olympic Games, the first thing he said to me was that she has a good head on her shoulders. Yes, it’s great news and so happy for both of them.”
And Power was equally delighted for Maguire, revealing he’d sent her a congratulatory text message.
“Leona’s incredible and ever since I met her I’ve always been following her,” said Power.
“She’s been amateur world number one and even last year she led the Solheim Cup scoring on points in an incredible rookie year and almost won last year.
“And now she’s come out this year early and won. I’m not surprised. It’s incredible for her to be the first LPGA winner from Ireland. I have nothing but good things to say about her.”
Power was speaking after sharing ninth place at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he had led after the opening two rounds. The West Waterford golfer’s result is a third top-10 in his past six PGA Tour starts.
“It was fun and I really enjoyed it. I’ve never played Monterey well and it kind of got me on Saturday and kind of took my momentum away,” said Power.
“Overall, it was nice to pick up a couple of shots on the back (nine today). It was nice and it was fun to play Pebble when it was firm with a bit of breeze. It was a different challenge and very enjoyable.
“It’s weird to say after having a very good opening two rounds but I didn’t have my best game this week but I was able to manage it and my wedges and putting were good enough to keep me in it and that’s encouraging.”
Power’s AT&T effort has seen him jump four places to World No. 46 having peaked at No. 47 a fortnight ago before dropping to No. 50.
The in-form Irish golfer heads from the stunning Pacific Ocean shoreline and east this week to the desert-like course at Phoenix for Thursday’s starting WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
It will be the first visit in three years after missing the cut in the 2019 event, his only prior start in the tournament famous for its raucous stadium hole, the par-3 16th.
“I didn’t play Phoenix well the last time and I can’t remember the course that well,” he said.
“It was the only time I played Phoenix, so I was struggling at the time but I’m looking forward to it because the whole experience is pretty special there so we’ll see. I have some friends in town for the week so I’m really looking forward to it.”