Leona Maguire carded her second straight round in the 60s but fell two shots shy of individual medallist, Nicole Schroeder, of Oregon State who won the event on 10-under-par.
The Cavan phenomenon returned a three-under-par 69 for an eight-under, 208 total to finish alongside Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee in the runner-up spot.
However, her individual exploits helped her Blue Devils teammates romp to victory in the team event – Duke’s 14-under total a full nine shots clear of Virginia in second place.
“I am really proud of the entire team,” said senior Maguire. “I think everybody stepped up this week. Regionals is always a very important event and we knew that this field top to bottom was pretty strong and that we would have to play some really good golf to come out on top. The team battled really well in the rain this morning. It is nice to get that win at regionals to set us up nicely going into nationals.”
Leona may have sister Lisa to thank for sparking her into life. The former has long credited her twin sister for her incredible progression having been her main competitor throughout her career to date.
And just when Lisa had threatened to steal a march on her sister having posted a season’s best four birdies in her opening round 73, Leona reacted with a stunning 7-under-par 65 to fire herself back into contention after round two in Wisconsin.
Her third round 69 that followed marked her 32nd career round in the 60s and fourth consecutive top-10 finish in NCAA Regional play.
“Obviously, I would have liked to start a little bit better the first day,” commented Maguire after her uncharacteristic 74.
“But to put two good numbers together coming in to help the team; I couldn’t really have asked for more than that. It gives me a lot of confidence going into nationals. Same for the entire team. I think everybody handled the conditions really well and everybody’s games are right where they need to be.”
Maguire teed off in the final round shotgun start at the first hole in very challenging conditions but battled to the turn in plus one just as the weather started to clear up, paving the way for her assault on the back nine.
She duly delivered, hitting her approach shots tight on 10 and 11 to set up two birdies. Maguire added two more gains at 16 and 18 to come home in a healthy four-under-par. She hit 14 greens, 11 fairways and needed just 27 putts. Her 15 birdies over the three days was tied for first.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” she confessed on the challenging conditions to start. “We had to deal with rain and wind. Those first few holes played a lot different than they played the last few days. They are probably some of the trickiest to have to start on. I think we did a really good job and stayed patient on those few holes and sort of took our chances coming in a little bit more.”
Lisa Maguire added a 74 to rounds of 73 and 74 to come in on a plus-three total and in a tie for 37th while Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey carded her second successive level-par 72 for a plus-one total, ending her challenge in a tie for 23rd.
The top six teams (and top three individuals not on those six teams) from each of four regional sites now advance to the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla. May 18-23 with Duke University in great form heading for the Nationals.