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'Wins aren't always a trophy' - Leona Maguire's momentous 2021

‘Even though I didn’t add any trophies to my cabinet, it’s still been a very successful year.’

Pictured at the Slieve Russell Hotel Golf & Country Club is Professional Irish Golfer and Davy ambassador, Leona Maguire. Davy is proud to support young Irish athletes.
Pictured at the Slieve Russell Hotel Golf & Country Club is Professional Irish Golfer and Davy ambassador, Leona Maguire. Davy is proud to support young Irish athletes.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

UNSURPRISINGLY, LEONA MAGUIRE doesn’t have to think too hard when she’s asked for her 2021 highlight.

“Solheim Cup,” she smiles through the pixels of yet another video call. There, she was the star of the show, capturing minds and stealing hearts across the world.

Having finished what feels like “a two-year season,” Maguire is tapering off in Orlando before heading home to Cavan for Christmas, and she’s more than happy to revisit that stunning September week.

“It’s probably been the highlight of my career so far, let alone the year. I couldn’t really have asked for that week to have gone any better and considering it’s something that I’ve dreamt about for a long time, for it to actually come together the way it did… it was definitely a very special week and one I’ll not forget for a long time.”

The same could be said for 2021 in general, in which she claimed five top-10s (she’s had six in her career), produced red-hot showings and etched her name into history at the Evian and Pelican Championships, and also starred at the Olympics for the second time.

It’s been a continuous upward trajectory, perhaps best reflected in her Rolex world ranking: at the start of the year she was 177th, and she currently sits 45th. Likewise, she has jumped to 19th on the LPGA’s official money list, making for a successful year on that front, with all of her stats and rankings moving in the right direction.

“Rankings is not something I’ve ever focused too much on, but at the same time, they are an indicator of where you sit relative to everybody else on Tour,” Maguire says, having celebrated her 27th birthday on Tuesday.

“So breaking into the world’s top 50 was definitely a big deal, and I consistently did that throughout the year, kept coming down and coming down. It wasn’t just one big massive jump. And that consistency is something that I’m very proud of.”

Could she say it’s her best year yet?

“Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of hard to quantify. The high points were some of the highest yet,” she nods, echoing her words that it’s the consistency of the year she’s particularly proud of.

golf-sep-06-lpga-solheim-cup With the Solheim Cup. Source: Brian Spurlock

“Started off well in Florida, had a nice one in Hawaii, built myself up, second place at the Meijer Classic, the 61 at Evian, the Solheim Cup, and 62 at Pelican, finished off CME strong. There were a lot of high points, I think, and I’ll take a lot of confidence into next year.

“In terms of the best yet… there were definitely moments of it that were definitely the best yet. It’s kind of hard to compare them, I suppose you’re comparing very different things in terms of junior golf, amateur and college golf. So I think you have to just celebrate them for what they are at the time. It’s been a very solid year.”

With the highs come lows, though. And Maguire points to Las Vegas in May as one; “a turning point” and “the event that got away,” as she missed out on qualifying for the knock-out stages of the LPGA Match-Play at Shadow Creek.

“But at the same time, if that hadn’t of happened, who knows how the second half of the year would have gone? It’s not always plain sailing, so I’m happy with the way I was able to reset, take stock and go again, and a couple of weeks after that was my best stretch of the year. Really proud of how I dealt with all that and put it into action rather than just thinking about it and ruminating on it and letting it spiral down.”

“In golf, you have to have a very short memory,” she adds. “We’re part of a sport where even if you’re at the very top of your game, you’re gonna lose more times than you win. It’s really about how you classify those wins, I think.

“Wins aren’t always a trophy, it’s sometimes about those personal goals that you have for that week, or that run of events, or whatever it is. Even though I didn’t add any trophies to my cabinet this year, it’s still been a very successful year. I achieved a lot of things that I wanted to.”

She’s learned a lot too from all of the different experiences, and can draw on them going forward; the highs of Solheim, Evian and other “confidence-boosters,” — “Knowing I can compete with the best players in the world in those high-pressure situations,” is something she takes reassurance from, in terms of the former — and the disappointing days which led to “reality checks” and “stock takes”.

A stock take, though not one in a negative sense, is chalked in for the turn of the year, when she sits down with her team to assess the current landscape and make new goals for 2022.

She’ll continue practicing and working hard in the gym in Orlando for now, but then she’ll take some time off at Christmas to rest, recharge and catch up with family and friends on her return to these shores.

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leona Pictured at the Slieve Russell Hotel Golf & Country Club is Professional Irish Golfer and Davy ambassador, Leona Maguire. Davy is proud to support young Irish athletes. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Ballyconnell native will spend three weeks or so here, having not been home since the Solheim Cup, and will surely enjoy the break.

But then it’s back to business, and down to the nitty gritty.

“There’s improvements to be made,” she stresses, looking to next year. “There’s no glaring part of my game, I would say, that needs serious, serious attention. It’s just making those small, incremental changes and improvements.

“I mean if you can say half-a-shot, a shot every round, that adds up to four shots every week; that would be a big deal. It’ll be a case of sitting down with my team at the end of this year and seeing where those little gains can be made. Nothing radical, I don’t think, required this winter, just those small, little tweaks and improvements.”

“I think the Majors are something that I’ll definitely be targeting,” Maguire adds. “I got my first top-10 at a Major this year at Evian so I would like to be in contention a little bit more in those next year, and as many times [as possible] in the regular Tour events.

“A lot of top-20s this year, hoping for maybe more top-10s next year, and work my way up. It’s hard to focus on the outcomes too much. There’s a lot of great players on the LPGA, and ultimately, I can’t control what they do — or finishes in tournaments and board rankings.

“All I can control is what I do.”

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Emma Duffy

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