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Leona Maguire storms into LPGA Pelican lead after setting tournament record in Florida

The Cavan woman holds a two shot lead after an opening round 62.

golf-oct-08-lpga-founders-cup Going well: Leona Maguire. Source: Rich Graessle

LEONA MAGUIRE HAS powered into the clubhouse lead at the LPGA Pelican Women’s Championship, having carded a tournament and course record on day one in Bellaire, Florida.

Looking to finish her stellar season with a win, the Cavan native was cool, calm and collected as she clocked a sizzling opening round 62.

  • You can view the leaderboard here >

Maguire, 26, carded eight birdies in a bogey-free showing to sit eight-under; defending champion Sei Young Kim next in line, two shots behind, with a big group one further back.

Sharing third on 65 were Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and Americans Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson, Christina Kim, Danielle Kang, Jennifer Kupcho and Lauren Coughlin.

Maguire, a former world amateur number one, fired the best final-round score in any major tournament, men’s or women’s, with a 61 in July at the Evian Championship.

In September, she set a rookie record with 4.5 points to help Europe win the Solheim Cup over the United States.

On Thursday, Maguire opened with a birdie and added another at the par-3 third hole, then closed the front nine with birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-3 ninth.

World number 46 Maguire, twice an LPGA runner-up this season, followed with birdies at the par-3 12th, par-5 14th and par-3 15th and added another at the par-4 18th.

“It was pretty stress-free,” Maguire said afterwards. “I played the par 3s really well, birdied all of them which really helped. It was just really, really solid. Hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of chances, and pulled some nice putts.

“My coach Shane [O'Grady, coach] with me also this week, he hasn’t been out [in the US] in two years so it’s been nice having here. It’s all just clicking nicely.”

“Just being more comfortable in these sort of pairings,” she added, when asked what she’s learned from this year — in which she recorded five top-10s this year — that she can take into the next three days.

“Obviously Sei Young and Lexi are two of the best players in world. Sei Young got off to a hot start. She knows how to play this golf course well. So just a case of trying to hang on and ride her momentum a little bit, and Lexi as well. Just believing in myself, playing my own game and doing what I do best.”

Her Solheim Cup showing brought a lift that has carried over into this week.

“That’s a confidence booster when you have the validation of your peers,” she said. “Being able to hit those shots when I needed it. I felt like I holed putts when I really needed to at Solheim.”

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Maguire was celebrated with a parade in her one-stoplight town of 5,000 when she got back home to Ireland.

“It was incredible. Nothing like I was expecting,” she said. “I went through my hometown in a convertible gold BMW with a LEONA license plate.

“It was basically like St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. I guess it timed nicely with the Covid restrictions lifting.

“The best part was seeing people happy and excited again. I brought a smile and joy to so many people. The response at home was phenomenal.”

You can watch Maguire’s first round highlights here >

- Additional reporting from © – AFP, 2021

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