Leona Maguire learned all about the fine margins in golf as she came up a shot shy of eventual winner Klara Spilkova at the KPMG Women’s Irish Open despite a terrific weekend effort at Dromoland Castle.
Weekend efforts of 65 and 68 which included back nines of 31 and 32 weren’t enough for her to take the title but she will rue the first five holes on the front nine which cost her eight shots – with four coming on that damaging second round of 75.
Maguire teed off a remarkable two shots off the pace heading into a Sunday showdown in Clare. There was huge tension around Dromoland as crowds funnelled in early.
Then the first tee shot came about and a scenario that was a decade in the making an Irishwoman in contention at her national open.
Frozen in time.
But the quick start to get the galleries warmed up on a chilly morning wasn’t forthcoming and rather the Cavan native froze with time with a bizarre three-putt from 30-feet where she left herself 12 feet for par.
A third bogey of the week on the opening hole was compounded by a second dropped shot on the difficult 2nd where she again found tree trouble off the tee as early optimism turned into murmurs of concern.
A welcome birdie arrived on the par-3 7th where she rolled in from four feet before a 15-footer from the fringe on 10 reignited her charge once again as she moved back to –9 and within three of Annabel Dimmock – queue the roar.
Chances on eleven and twelve went begging before Dromoland turned into a frenzy after the home hero birdied 13 and 14 to move to within one of a five-way tie.
The 15th hole was like a scene from the Lion King – a stampede of eager spectators scurrying to get to the green.
They were left disappointed and the atmosphere went flat when Maguire missed from 7-feet for birdie and ultimately fell two behind.
Birdies on 16 and 18 moved her to within one of playoff participants Nicole Broch Estrup, Ursula Wikstrom and Spilokva on thirteen-under as she received a heroes reception.
This event is set to return to Dromoland next year and Maguire will hope for better on the first five holes which cost her so dearly.
“The front nine hasn’t been good to me this week, I’ve got off to a slow start every day, it seems like, on the front nine,” said Maguire. “If I only had to play the back nine this week I’d be laughing but it is what it is. It doesn’t take much out there for it to go one way or the other.
“It would have been nice to get off to a better start today but I still stayed patient, hung in there and proud that I finished strong.
“I mean I would have loved to win. That was the goal this week, to win and I would have liked to have delivered that for the fans but that’s golf, it wasn’t meant to be. I did my very best and that’s all I can really ask,” added Maguire who is unsure if she will tee it up next week with her passport in the hands of the Korean embassy.
In the end it was a share of 4th place for Maguire alongside Austrian Christine Wolf and Smilla Soenderby but she was proud of her battling spirit and delighted with how the event went with 24,000 spectators streaming through the gates including 10,000 on Sunday.
“You never give up no matter what, you always try to be better than you were the day before. I was really proud of how I dug in this weekend and really made a good go of it.
“It was a fantastic week, someone just said there was 10,000 through the gates which is phenomenal support for the first Irish Open back in 10 years and hopefully it will only continue to build and to get bigger and better in years to come.
“I thought at the start of the week 16 was going to be the number to get to, so I was beginning to wonder after Friday, I had a lot o f ground to make up so we nearly got there, just not quite.
“I think everybody can be incredibly proud of the show that was put on this week. The girls have enjoyed it, the fans have enjoyed it. Dromoland has put on a great show, KPMG has backed it. Hopefully this is the start of a bigger and better Irish Open.
“I feel like Saturday and Sunday I couldn’t have given it any more than I did. Friday obviously is the disappointing round in there but gave it absolutely all I could and I couldn’t ask for much more than that.
“I think it has been a tremendous success this event has been ten years in the making and Dromoland have been a great venue, the course held up very well. We were obviously blessed with the weather and with KPMG backing it, this event can get bigger and bigger and attract a world class field in years to come.”
Maguire’s thunder was nicked by Czech star Spilkova who picked up the second win of her career in an enthralling playoff.
Spilkova made a miraculous par save on 17 after hacking out of the water hazard minus her shoes and socks and rolled in from five feet.
Her eagle chip in extra time on 18 was going to go eight feet by but caught a large chunk of the hole and after Broch Estrup and Wikstrom saw birdie efforts come up short, the 27-year-old finally got over the line.