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Leona Maguire interview: ‘I underestimated how much winning took out of me’

Europe’s Solheim Cup hero notched up another LPGA Tour win in 2023 and knows she’s a match for the world’s best golfers when she brings her A-game

One moment in time, of many in the season gone, encapsulated the moniker – that of the “Silent Assassin” – which has come Leona Maguire’s way.

It came at the death of a September Friday evening’s fourballs match in the Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in the south of Spain, where Cavan’s global golfing star produced a feat of escapology that was one of the defining acts of the match between Europe and the United States.

Maguire (playing with England’s Georgia Hall) was, to those of us looking on, seemingly chasing a lost cause in the match against Lexi Thompson and world number one Lylia Vu.

She didn’t think that way. In playing a chip shot from short of the green, to a tight pin just six paces on, Maguire – her eyes hidden behind sunglasses – showed no emotions in preparing for her shot. It was only after holing out for a match-winning birdie that the fists pumped the air and her facial emotions allowed us a glimpse into her inner steel.


And that chip-in would prove crucial to Europe ultimately retaining the Solheim Cup – after the match finished 14-14 – and only added to Maguire’s legend.

From her amateur days, Maguire has been a pioneering force for Irish women’s golf. The former, long-time world amateur number one used the past year to further augment her professional career as she became a multiple champion on the LPGA Tour – winning the Meijer Classic for her second win on the US circuit – while also confirming the Solheim Cup as part of her DNA with a tour de force performance in playing all five sessions for a second straight match.

Maguire’s globe-trotting throughout 2023 saw her play in 23 tournaments – from the USA to Saudi Arabia, Thailand to Singapore, England to France, Ireland to Malaysia – while also playing that starring role in the Solheim Cup in Spain and finishing off the season by partnering Lucas Glover in the mixed team event at the Grant Thornton Invitational. That’s a lot of golf, of criss-crossing time zones through the year.

Now, it’s time to get going again. Maguire is already back in Florida preparing for the new 2024 LPGA Tour season which starts with the HGV Tournament of Champions on what is effectively home turf at Lake Nona in Orlando on January 18th-21st followed a week later by the Drive On Championship in Bradenton, also in Florida.

Looking back to go forward, Maguire can reflect on many positives from last season as she embarks on another campaign.

For one, her second LPGA career win came in the Meijer Classic at Blythefield Country Club in Michigan back in June, where she showcased her killer instinct down the stretch – producing a run of birdie-eagle-par-birdie-birdie-birdie from the 13th in a closing bogey-free 64 – for a two stokes winning margin over Ariya Jutanugarn. Victory earned her a winner’s cheque for $375,000.

Maguire’s putter was hot that day, to go along with her accuracy. She took just 29 putts and hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation in lifting her second LPGA Tour title: “You have to play really good golf to win [on the LPGA Tour], it’s tough. It’s a really nice feeling to get this one.”

That would be Maguire’s season’s highlight from a personal perspective – in a year where that win was among seven top-10s worldwide – but, just as she had done in 2021, she emerged as Europe’s superstar in retaining the Solheim Cup.

Europe’s captain Suzann Pettersen had name-checked her as the “Silent Assassin” in the run-up to the match on the mountainous Finca Cortesin course in Andalucia, although the Americans were well aware of what weaponry Maguire would bring to the occasion.

As it turned out, Maguire played all five sessions and – apart from that wonder chip-in in Friday’s fourballs – contributed a vital singles point too in beating Rose Zhang by 4 and 3.

“I knew I would have to bring my A-Game,” said Maguire of the challenge posed by Zhang. She did.

“I love this team. I love playing in this event,” said Maguire in savouring the moment of success and, most likely, she will become a three-timer in the Solheim Cup when the match returns to even years in the calendar when it takes place in Virginia in the USA next September.

Maguire’s quest for a breakthrough career Major didn’t materialise, but – just as she did in the AIG Women’s Open in 2022 – she got into the mix through 54-holes of the KPMG Women’s Open at Baltusrol where she led going into the final round only for tiredness to play a factor in her ultimately finishing in tied-11th behind China’s Yin Ruoning.

In looking back on last season, Maguire said: “Any year you win, it’s obviously a really good year. I think you’ve seen in the last five years, on the LPGA Tour, how hard it is to win. You see how long Lexi [Thompson] has gone without a win [since 2019] and Lydi [Ko] didn’t win this year.

“So, any time you win, it’s always nice. Obviously, Baltusrol would be one [where] you’d like to have that final round back but, at the same time, it was a big sort of learning curve for next year and also knowing that I [could] contend on arguably the hardest golf course of the year.”

She added: “I think the big thing I probably underestimated was how much [winning] Meijer had taken out of me the week before [Baltusrol].”

Scheduling events is a big factor for any player. For someone like Maguire, playing a global schedule and also being the poster girl of the KPMG Irish Women’s Open, it is a part of the game that she is still learning to manage and especially going into a new year of work that also features the Olympics along with the five women’s Majors.

“I’m going to have to very carefully plan out [the year] . . . it’s not easy to get the schedule right, I’m still figuring it out. I haven’t quite got that piece of the puzzle yet,” admitted Maguire.

For the most part, though, Maguire – continuing to be a pioneering force for Irish women’s golf and an inspiration to others – has managed to complete the jigsaw more often than not and, looking ahead to this season, the main part will be an intensive schedule from the Chevron in April to the Olympics in Paris in August, a stretch that will include the five Majors and the Olympic Games.

“I know when, when I have my A game, it’s good, good enough to compete with the best. It’s just a case of getting that a little bit more consistent, week in and week out.”