Alex Maguire talks the East and an exciting future

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Alex Maguire (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

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Alex Maguire has played in The Open, the Irish Open and the Walker Cup but for him, the East of Ireland is the biggest championship.

Last week he finished 24th on the Alps Tour in France and his attentions now turn to the Kaskáda Golf Challenge in Czech Republic after he received a Golf Ireland invitation.

A lot has happened in the past 12 months, this time last year the Laytown & Bettystown clubman was preparing to defend his title in Baltray.

The County Louth venue is a home away from home for Maguire and huge crowds flocked to watch his tense play-off against fellow local, Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), and Sam Murphy (Portumna).

Maguire held his nerve and that win propelled him towards a stunning year, the St Andrews Links title came the following week, another success that had huge ramifications, in the form of winning the Open Amateur Series.

His Major debut was next, as well as a memorable return to St Andrews, before another unforgettable week, this time in The K Club at the Irish Open.

In December he announced he was turning professional, it was the next logical step in the perfect ladder, but it all began back at the East.

“I put the most pressure on myself to win that one,” said Maguire.

“Then I won it two years ago. it was a massive achievement for me but you go back the year after and all you want to do is win it again.”

Maguire was looking to replicate Raymie Burns’ back-to-back record from 30 years previous when he set foot on course that week.

The Florida Atlantic University student had won the North of Ireland in 2021 but when he claimed the East two years ago it was a huge personal achievement. And there was a feeling of destiny in his hands when he returned.

“The East, no matter the size of it WAGR wise or anything, it’s the biggest championship,” said Maguire.

“It felt like anything but a win was failure, if I came second, I wouldn’t accept that at all. I put as much work as I could into it.

“I played every day for two weeks leading up, I played as many links courses as I could just to get away from playing the same course over and over and then once the week came I felt very relaxed, at ease.”

Reigning champion, Maguire began the week with a brilliant 68 but he trailed Portmarnock’s Harry Gillivan by one shot after the opening round.

“I could have been -8 or -9, I missed a few chances on the way in,” said Maguire.

“I always felt it was in my hands even if the lead wasn’t mine. I didn’t panic, I felt like I was eventually going to be atop the leaderboard and then going into the final day I was maybe two behind, but I stood on the first tee in the morning and genuinely felt it was mine to lose.”

Maguire consolidated his position with a 72 in the final round but Rafferty (67) and Murphy (70) crept up and it resulted in a play-off.

“There was a massive crowd, it was unbelievable,” said Maguire.

He holed a combined 30-feet of putts over the two closing holes to reach the play-off and now he had to keep his composure as the temperatures ramped up on course.

“It was the best crowd I have experienced in my amateur career,” said Maguire.

“There were people everywhere and a lot of them were rooting for me, especially the ones that were following me and then obviously you had the Dundalk lads who came down to support Raff.

“I got the job done but I don’t think I would have without the crowd, they willed the ball into the hole on 17 and 18 in regulation. As soon as I hit the putts everyone was willing for the ball to go in.

“It was nice to win for the second time in front of the people closest to me and the people who give me so much support, doesn’t matter where I go but to do it in front of them was extra special.”

Just a few days later, Maguire became only the third Irish player to lift the St Andrews Links, when a final round 64 helped him secure a resounding five-shot win on the Old Course.

“I didn’t get to celebrate the East, I left the day after and drove to St Andrews,” said Maguire.

The momentum never stopped and a couple of professional starts before an end of season Walker Cup, whet the appetite for the paid ranks. Then on 19 December Maguire announced he had turned professional.

“There was no better time to turn pro after the year I had,” said Maguire.

“When I look back it felt like I was walking on clouds the whole summer. I got picked for every team I was eligible for. I felt like anything that could have gone right, went right.

“It was incredible, I felt very lucky, I tried to soak it in as much as I could. I was lucky to get all the opportunities at the right time. There was Walker Cup, there was the world team championships, there was the exemption to The Open, all these opportunities the year I played well.

“The only thing that was left to win was the British Am and I don’t think it would have been sensible to wait another year to win that. It was the right time to turn pro, I had the momentum on my side, I had sponsors looking to help me out and give me the foot up.

“I had the experience, I had gone through Q School, I had seen what it was like, I just felt like it was the right time. I had finished my degree in December so I had that in the back pocket.

“It was definitely the best time for me to turn pro and give it a shot.”

Maguire joined up with White Rose Sports Management and made his debut at the Delhi Challenge in March.

It has been a whirlwind year and while he tries to navigate the new experiences, he is enticed by the opportunities that present themselves from week to week.

“It’s all exciting isn’t it? There’s a lot to look forward to, there’s a lot to strive for,” said Maguire.

“I would be quite close with Tom McKibbin and he shot straight up, I was with him last week and he qualified for his first Major, you try not to compare yourself to those guys because there’s few of them.

“The average route is you go through the Alps Tour and Challenge Tour, you might take a few more years than normal but that’s the process, that is generally how it goes.

“It’s great, I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t excited for the future. It’s the game I love and to be playing the game I love and be paid by doing the thing that I love. I’m very lucky that that is my life at the moment.

“I’m looking forward to travelling, playing different places, meeting new friends, sharing rooms with lads, sharing cars with lads that I may or I may not know and being out of my comfort zone is something that I am trying to embrace.

“I tend to not like change or not like anything too uncomfortable but the more comfortable I can get being uncomfortable that would be the key to play well and get status on the relevant tours.

“The more comfortable I can get, the better I can play.”



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