This year’s LPGA Tour schedule promises to be every bit as manic as the last but that won’t stop Leona Maguire in her quest for Women’s Irish Open success and Solheim Cup glory.
Maguire set home tongues wagging with a moving day 65 last September at Dromoland Castle as she looked to mount a title charge at her National Open. In the end she came up one shot shy of a playoff in a gutsy final round display delivered on pure adrenaline as Maguire’s trans-Atlantic schedule caught up to her in Co. Clare.
This year’s renewal moves forward two weeks in the diary to a new August 31 to September 3 date and while it doesn’t yet sit perfectly on her schedule, Maguire believes the move is a step in the right direction for the tournament which returned after a 10-year absence in 2022.
“We can definitely plan it a bit better this year,” Maguire says. “It’s a week after the World Invitational at Galgorm so maybe a few girls will hang on, have a holiday in Ireland and come down to Dromoland.
“It’s the week of Portland which generally doesn’t have that strong a field but Canada separates Galgorm and Dromoland and that’s a massive event on the LPGA schedule.
“Whether girls would be willing to come back to Ireland again, who knows, but hopefully we’ll get a few, and maybe a few of the Solheim Cup players who’ll be coming back to Spain
“It’s definitely a better date so hopefully we can attract an improved field and get the weather as well.”
Maguire’s campaign began afresh at the Tournament of Champions in January after delivering a breakthrough victory for Ireland last season on the LPGA Tour. Now on the verge of the world’s top-10, Maguire insists she’s not interested in rankings, rather milestones of a different kind, like building upon Major success having enjoyed top-10 finishes at the Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Open last year.
2023 also represents another Solheim season, and while the schedule sees a slow burn through Asia for the first few months of the new calendar, things ramp up fast this summer with four Majors in seven weeks, the KPMG Irish Women’s Open and a Solheim Cup defence all on the horizon.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” Maguire says.
“It’s all new Major venues this year. I haven’t been to Baltusrol, haven’t been to Pebble Beach. Dermot [Byrne – caddie] has, which is nice!
“I was happy with how the Majors went last year. The British Open and the U.S. Open were the ones I really wanted to do well at. I’d never made a cut at a U.S. Open, let alone have a top-10, that was huge. I didn’t go to Scotland in order to best prepare for Muirfield and that was another great week.
“I’m trying to make small improvements all the time so these big jumps don’t seem as daunting. I’ve never focussed on rankings or anything like that, I just need to keep working hard and let tournament wins, majors and rankings hopefully take care of themselves.
“But there’s no glaring issues that I’m going to have to work on in order to prepare for them. It’s just a case of fine-tuning and making everything just that little bit better and hopefully taking our opportunities as and when they come.”
No opportunity has come bigger than Maguire’s CME Tour Championship push last year. With a $2m first prize cheque on the line, the 28-year old fought Lydia Ko tooth and nail to the finish before settling for second place and a consolation prize worth $550,000, more than double that of her maiden win at the Drive On.
“You try to treat it like any other event,” Maguire says of the eye-watering reward.
“I’ve had people text me that the bunker shot on 17 was work 180 grand. Thankfully I didn’t know it was worth 180 grand at the time! It wasn’t the nicest bunker shot for that kind of money but overall, who knows what happens on any one shot.
“Of course it would’ve been nice to win two million. Hopefully I’ll have chances to do that again. That’s life-changing money on the LPGA so hopefully the purses can keep going up.
“But I don’t play golf for money. I was probably more nervous playing in front of home crowds trying to win the trophy at Dromoland and Galgorm than I was at CME.”
It shows just how far Maguire has come that only four years prior, she missed out on an LPGA Tour card at Q-School by a single stroke. One of the game’s great amateurs wasn’t having it all her own way amongst the pros initially but now well and truly through that transition, Maguire is a global golf star with no cause for Q-School concerns in her future.
“It’s gone by pretty fast,” she admits. “We finished up at the Pelican event last year, drove two hours or so down to Naples, and you pass the exit for Venice which is where Second Stage of Q-School was being held that week and yeah, it was nice not to have to make that turn!
“Q-School is a bleak place. You go there once, you don’t ever want to go back. It’s a long season and you don’t really think about those things along the way but at the same time, it’s nice knowing that I stuck to the plan, worked hard and it’s all been going quite nicely since.”
Better than nicely, Maguire has firmly established herself amongst the best players in the women’s game, meaning she should be a shoe-in for a second Solheim Cup cap having played a starring role for Catriona Matthew’s side in Europe’s victory two years ago in Toledo.
“First and foremost I have to make sure I’m on that team. It’s a very different golf course to Inverness, it’s a massive property, a stunning venue. It’s quite hilly – it’s going to be a tricky venue for fans to get around but it’s very exciting,” Maguire says.
“We obviously don’t know what the team’s going to be but it will likely be completely different to the one that was in Toledo but I really want to get back there.
“There should be great home support, even from Irish people who no doubt will want to see a Solheim for the first time since Gleneagles.
“It will almost feel like being a rookie again having crowds clapping for you when you hole a putt so it should be a totally different experience. I just need to make sure I do everything I can to be there.”
Maguire’s Major schedule:
- April 20-23, The Chevron Championship, Purse $5.1m
- June 22-25, KPMG Women’s PGA, Purse $9m
- July 6-9, U.S. Women’s Open, Purse $10m
- July 27-30, Evian Championship, Purse $6.5m
- Aug 10-13, AIG Women’s Open, Purse $7.3m
- Aug 17-20, ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm
- Aug 31-Sep 3, KPMG Women’s Irish Open
- Sep 22-24, The Solheim Cup