At Ohio’s Inverness Club back in 2021, Solheim Cup debutant Leona Maguire was the only one of the 24 players across both sides who was sent into battle in all five sessions. This was testament not only to the quality which she’d shown in each and every match, but to the mental fortitude of the Cavan star and the esteem in which European captain Catriona Matthew held for her captain’s pick who had yet to become a winner on the LPGA circuit.
Two years on, Norwegian legend Suzann Pettersen is holding the reigns for Europe and when thinking about potential pairings and number of sessions in which a player can be sent out in, she’s hesitant given Finca Cortesin’s length and the challenge of walking it for a potential 90 holes in the space of around 56 hours.
“Is this a golf course where it’s good to play five matches?” she mused in her pre-tournament press conference, clearly indicating the concern. “Like I told them, I can’t read your mind, and I can’t guess what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, so you got to communicate back to us. If one player is saying five matches is too much, well then that’s great to know. On the other hand, all the players are here to play golf and they will do whatever we ask them to. So they’re a pretty good group of players to handle.”
But when it comes to Leona Maguire, she’s unequivocal about her desire to keep the hero of Inverness involved as much as possible.
“Leona, I mean, I just think she’s the type of player you would like to keep on the course at all times. She’s just that feisty. She’s just that good. As soon as those sunglasses goes on she’s in her own little bubble and just keep her there. She kind of proved that pretty well in Toledo and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be quite competitive this week.”
Keeping things light in the team room and on team get togethers can prove invaluable on pressure cooker weeks such as the Solheim Cup and whilst the MVP on the golf course can be easily seen through points accumulated, the European side are pretty unanimous about who is the MVP off the course.
Both Pettersen and vice captain Laura Davies singled out Charley Hull as the comic in the group, even if they were hesitant to give examples citing a ‘what goes on in the room, stays in the room’ omerta-like approach.
“I think Charley’s the obvious choice,” said Davies. “I don’t even think she knows she’s funny, but she is probably the funniest person you’ll ever meet. She keeps everyone on their toes.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Georgia Hall earlier in the day. Whilst Maguire teamed up with Mel Reid in three of her four paired matches at Inverness, she went to battle alongside Hall in the day one fourball matches.
“Just Charley is the highlight for everyone every day,” Hall said. “She makes everyone laugh. She doesn’t try to, so that’s the highlight.”
Hall would relish the opportunity to partner with Maguire again. “There’s not much emotion (with Leona),” she said light-heartedly, “but she’s a great player, very steady and doesn’t do a lot wrong. We haven’t been asked who we want to be paired with, but whoever she gets paired with will have a great match.”
Class clown Hull, who’s known Leona since competing in the Junior Solheim Cup together back in 2011, echoed Hall’s sentiments. “Yeah, well, Leona, she’s only been on tour for like, what, four years now,” she responded when asked if it was hard to fathom that this was only Maguire’s second Solheim Cup appearance, “so she’s been in both the Solheim Cups that she could be in.
“She’s going to be on a lot more as well. I like playing with Leona. She’s a great steady player. She’s had a good season so far. But, yeah, no. I think I played in the Junior Solheim Cup with her actually in the Solheim in 2011. But I’ve known Leona for years and she’s a nice girl.”