Maguire aiming for Olympic and major gold in 2024

Ronan MacNamara
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Leona Maguire (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Leona Maguire hopes she can carry her superb Solheim Cup form into what will be a hectic LPGA season as she chases major championship glory and Olympic gold.

Maguire quipped that translating her Solheim Cup heroics to the big individual tournaments this year is “the million dollar question” and there is no better place to start her quest for a third LPGA triumph than at this week’s Drive On Championship – the title she won for her first tour win.

“Yeah, that’s the million dollar, isn’t it?” Maguire joked. “I get asked this a lot. If I had the answer I would do it every week. Solheim is just a special week. I love match play, team golf. There is something about the Solheim Cup that brings something out in everybody.

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“But I think you’re a little bit more aggressive maybe in the Solheim. I mean, match play you can kind of go for things. Doesn’t really matter if you miss that putt or one hole is one hole.

“It’s a little bit of a different mentality, but, yeah, if I can tap into that a little bit more this year, yeah, be pretty nice,” added Maguire who will be joined by Stephanie Meadow in the first regular field this season.

The Cavan star was the difference once again as she helped Europe to a historic three-in-a-row triumph over the USA in Finca Cortesin last September, the highlight being her sensational chip in at the last to beat Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu in the Friday fourballs.

It was more confirmation that she belongs on the big stage after a summer that saw her hold a 54-hole lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the week after winning her second LPGA title. Fatigue got the better of her in the final round as she settled for 11th place.

For Maguire this term, it’s about channeling that adrenaline from team golf into individual championships.

“I think there is an incredible amount of adrenaline after Solheim. It’s such a high. It’s funny, in the couple of days, the week of I never felt tired. Felt like I could have played five more rounds. You’re just so excited to be there. You’re feeding off the energy of the crowd with your teammates. It’s such a fun week, and the celebrations after.

“I think that’s one of those things in sport. I suppose you spend so long chasing wins and chasing all this you don’t actually sometimes get to enjoy it as much as it’s always onto the next, onto the next.

“So I think the nice thing I found with Solheim is you actually take a little bit more time to enjoy it. I remember going back to Arkansas the next week. You hit a shot and you’re waiting for the crowd to cheer and roar and it just doesn’t happen. There is only a few people behind the greens.

“So it’s definitely a little bit of a comedown, a little bit flat the weeks after, and you’re trying to get yourself going again. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Maguire will get the chance to experience that Solheim Cup feeling in Gainesville this September and while she will be looking for her third straight continental success, it’s international glory she seeks this summer in the Olympics where she can channel that Solheim Cup spirit.

“I think it’s been fantastic for golf to be a part of it. I think a lot of people tune into golf in the Olympics that wouldn’t normally watch golf.

“I mean, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world. I know different people debate whether it should be pro or amateur or things like that, but, I mean, it’s a huge honor to represent your country and there is no bigger stage than the Olympic Games.

“Myself and Stephanie Meadow represented Ireland the past few times. We been chatting about it. Rio was a little bit not quite a full experience of the Games with everything that was going on. Tokyo was obviously very different Games.

“So feels like Paris will almost be our full experience of an Olympic Games. It’s obviously in Europe this year, so hopefully a few more friends and family can go. Golf national a obviously an iconic venue from the Ryder Cup and all that.

“It’s definitely circled on the calendar and really looking forward to it. I just love the camaraderie with the other athletes as well. Being from Ireland it’s one of those smaller teams. Everybody knows each other. You’re cheering for everybody. We typically don’t win very many medals, so when someone does win a medal there is a lot of excitement. Everybody comes back and you celebrate with everybody.

“There is a nice sense of team spirit that week that you don’t normally get. It’s a fun week.”

The 29-year-old has been steadily improving each year on the LPGA Tour, increasing her length off the tee, becoming an accurate iron player and a deadly putter when she gets in contention. Breaking into the top-10 in the world for the first time last year was a nod to her consistency and she plans to peak for the hectic summer season with a particular emphasis on the majors.

“Yeah, I think just more consistently getting myself into contention more often,” she said.

“The good stuff was really good, and just trying to do that more even, especially in the majors, and week in, week out.

“So if I can bottle that for a bit more, obviously going to be a huge summer, a really busy summer with four Majors, Olympics, Solheim, and packed quite into a short amount of time. So I think everybody is going to be trying to peak at that point.

“So just making sure everything is ready to go by the time those summer months roll around, and put myself contention as much as I can leading up to that.”

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