Leona Maguire was just 16 when the Solheim Cup was held at Killeen Castle in 2011, but as a rising star in the amateur ranks along with twin sister Lisa, she was present to witness Europe end a streak of three dominant US performances and she has vivid memories of that event and a strong desire to see it return to Irish shores in the future.
Joining her team captain Suzann Pettersen and teammates Carlotta Ciganda, Linn Grant, Maja Stark, Caroline Hedwall and Emily Pedersen in the post event press conference, she recalled her memories of the event and said that the European team’s outfits had been another reminder and dropped a hint that she’d love to one day captain a European side.
“Yeah, I mean, with the Ryder Cup in a few years, it will be fantastic to see,” she said. “Suzann and I were talking on the range this morning. I have vivid memories of Killeen Castle in 2011. These shirts remind me of that, and I think we all got a little bit of inspiration from that. It would be fantastic. I know there’s a few golf clubs interested in Ireland, and then, yeah, who knows if it’s the right time to play, or, yeah, maybe captaining there one day might not be too bad.”
Despite the event being held in AndalucÍa on Spain’s Costa del Sol, the Irish very much made their presence felt, so much so that Sky’s Jamie Weir joked that, Ireland itself and Boston, the fans at Finca Cortesin were the third highest concentration of Irish people worldwide.
Highest concentration of Irish people:
3. At the Solheim Cup this week following Leona Maguire
— Jamie Weir (@jamiecweir) September 24, 2023
And, of course, the support wasn’t lost on Leona herself.
“The Irish fans were incredible this week,” she said. “There was so many flags, so many cheers. I know we were in Spain, but it felt like we were in Ireland at a certain point. Just the support, this is a week I’ll never forget. ”
Playing in the day’s second match, she was the first one to get a point on the board for Europe, storming to a 4&3 win over 20-year-old sensation Rose Zhang, the highlight of which was a 50-foot eagle putt on 14 to secure at least a half-point, and though she wanted to go out early and get Europe off to a winning start, she was full of admiration for Spaniard Carlotta Ciganda who got the crucial point that secured the tie and kept the Solheim Cup on European soil.
“Yeah, I mean, I think I wanted to go out early,” she admitted. “It was nice to get blue on the board early. When I finished, it was looking really good and then it wasn’t looking so good and then back good again.
“The girls were incredible this week. It was a fantastic team, and we couldn’t have asked for a better captain. It was, I think, very fitting that Carlota was the star of the show this week and got to hole the winning putt.”
LEONA. MAGUIRE. 💥
An emphatic eagle to go 4UP against Rose Zhang
— LPGA (@LPGA) September 24, 2023
Ciganda managed to recover from a nightmare 15th hole that saw world number three Nelly Korda tie the match and see the pendulum swing back in the United States’ favour before regrouping to play phenomenal golf on holes 16 and 17 to win the match 2UP.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember much [of] what had happened,” she admitted of the ensuing mayhem after holing the match winning and tie securing point. “It was pretty close. I think it was probably two feet, two and a half. I hit a really good shot, and I made the putt, and I don’t know what I did. Like, I can’t remember, to be honest. I just went crazy, and I just have flashes of just hugging everyone, going crazy, and I don’t really know what I did.”
She did remember the few previous holes, however, and explained exactly what had happened on 15 as the TV cameras didn’t catch quite how she ended up making a six to drop back to level.
“Yeah, I hit a proper shank on 15,” she sheepishly said. “That was tough. But that’s match play; you lose a hole, you just keep going.
“It was really helpful to see Suzann on 16. She just came to me and she was like, yes, go out and do this in front of your country and in front of your people, and I was like, let’s just do it and let’s just finish it.
“And then [Nelly] hit a great shot, but I hit another great shot in there, and then 17 was just amazing. To finish like that, I have no words. I think it’s a week that I’m going to remember forever and just very, very happy.”
Emily Pedersen, along with Maguire and Linn Grant, played all five matches on what is a very hilly and difficult course to walk, but she was showing little signs of fatigue in the aftermath and hinted that she was prepared to party into the small hours.
“No, I’m fine,” she said when asked if she was wrecked. “I’m ready to go again. No. I’m good. I am a little bit tired, but I’m definitely going to be the last one in bed tonight, I think.”