Four years ago Leona Maguire saw her LPGA Tour hopes for 2019 dashed when she failed to progress to the Second Stage of Q-School by a single shot having already missed out via the Symetra Tour route.
Now, she is an LPGA Tour winner and a fixture in the top-20 of the Rolex World Rankings having burst onto the professional scene in the last 14 months.
Known as an extremely steady and gutsy player, Maguire has sacrificed some of her usual consistency missing six cuts including three on the trot in the summer – having missed only three in 2021.
She has emerged, however, as a woman for the big occasion having secured two top-10 finishes in the majors this year while she ran Lydia Ko close at the CME Group Tour Championship where the winner received $2 million.
“I’m really proud of how I performed in the big events this year,” said Maguire who finished second on Sunday. “The majors, US Open and British Open in particular. Then to finish off, this was like a mini major so wasn’t maybe quite as consistent as last year but some really big finishes in some big events so really proud of the year overall.
“Four years ago pretty much this week, I missed the second stage of Q-School by a shot. I drove by that exit on Sunday coming down here and to be here today in this position is a big jump forward.”
Maguire announced herself as a world star with a record-breaking performance in the Solheim Cup as Europe won on US soil for just the second time in their history. It was an eye-opening moment for her as she came to the realisation that she belonged at the top level of the professional game having dominated at amateur level.
In just her second start of the 2022 season, the Cavan native made history becoming the first Irishwoman to win on the LPGA Tour at the Drive On Championship.
Since then, the 27-year-old has registered seven top-10 finishes including two to finish off her year.
“It’s been an incredible year, my best season so far and I’m looking forward to the offseason now and an even better 2023.”
Maguire had the opportunity on Sunday to make more history by earning the second largest winning cheque if she could beat Lydia Ko in Florida. Rory McIlroy pocketed a cool $2.25 million when he won the Players Championship in 2019 while Shane Lowry earned $1.93m for his Open win at Portrush with Harrington getting $1.54m for his second Open win.
But, after a blistering bogey-free 63 to join Ko at the summit on –15, the Ballyconnell woman didn’t quite have her ‘A’ game on the final day. She battled gallantly to a level-par 72 to remain on fifteen-under but late birdies saw Ko edge to a two-shot win to complete the Tour Championship and Race to CME double.
“There were no nerves, it was tough today. You had to hit quality golf shots and I didn’t execute them as well as I would have liked. I hung in well and got up and down a few times. That round could have got away from me really easily and I battled hard out there to shoot level par.
“Lydia is a class act, she always is, she was really steady, really solid. She putts phenomenally well anytime she got a chance she took it and that’s what you have to do.
“I tried to focus on my game. It being tough made it a little easier to focus on your own thing, there wasn’t time to get distracted. It was a different position from what I’ve been in before and I definitely will learn from it,” added Maguire who will head to Spain for the LET Tour Championship next week.
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