Leona Maguire: ‘People have expected things from me for the last 15 years’

Cavan golfer took a giant leap in 2021 but won’t let outside expectations get in the way

On the course, the mask is that of a silent assassin. Emotions are kept in check, the eyes more often than not hidden from view by the dark lens of her sunglasses. Off the course, Leona Maguire’s eyes twinkle, often with a sense of devilment, and whatever words come out - most often with clarity and a sense of purpose which demonstrate intelligence and her passion for golf - are frequently followed by a smile, a woman very much comfortable in her own skin.

That the 27-year-old Cavan golfer took the pioneering road less travelled from the lakelands and drumlins of her native country to head stateside firstly for a scholarship at Duke University in North Carolina and, with a sense of destiny, in then moving onwards onto the LPGA Tour, Maguire's exploits through 2021 - with the headline act being her star role in Europe's Solheim Cup win over the USA in Toledo - showcased an upwards trajectory that has placed her among golf's very elite.

"She's going to be around for a long time, she's the one we're going to have to fear," remarked the vanquished USA captain Pat Hurst of Maguire's impact in the latest edition of the Solheim Cup, where the Irishwoman was the only player from either team to feature in all five sessions, went unbeaten and collected four and a half points from five.

If that Solheim Cup was, as Maguire put it, the “highlight” of her season, there was a lot else too to admire as she crunched a lot of numbers.


Maguire finished 17th on the LPGA Tour’s CME Globe final standings, and moved to 43rd in the Rolex world rankings. In 20 starts on the LPGA Tour (with a stroke average of 69.99), she secured two runner-up finishes (in the Lotte Championship and the Meijer Classic) among five top-10 finishes. One of those top-10s was a first in a Major, in the Evian Championship where she closed with a 61 (equalling the lowest ever rounds in Major championship golf, alongside Lee Jeon-eun and Kim Hyo-joo).


"I set goals at the start of every year. The big ones this year were qualifying for the Majors and getting myself back into the CME Group Tour championship. The main goal myself and Shane (O'Grady, her coach) set was to be in the top-40 (on the LPGA) at the end of the year. If we were top-50 last year, the goal was top-40 this year, so I more than achieved that. The Solheim Cup was an outside goal, and I obviously did that as well. So, overall, I'm very happy with how the season went," said Maguire, who added of how she sets down such personal goals.

“Some of them I write down and some of them are kept to myself, and they change a little bit as well as the season goes along. If you tick off something early in the year, you have to reassess as you go.”

One thing is for sure, nobody expects more of Maguire than Maguire herself.

After all, this is a player who - along with twin Lisa - was a child prodigy. When the Solheim Cup was played at Killeen Castle in 2011, the sisters played in the Junior Solheim Cup at Knightsbrook in nearby Trim and, when the real deal was enacted at the Jack Nicklaus-signature course, Leona was one of those able to walk inside the ropes following among others Suzann Pettersen, who will be Solheim Cup captain in 2023.

“Suzann was a big hero of mine growing up. She was someone that I really looked up to. I admired her passion for the game and her competitiveness,” admitted Maguire who has demonstrated similar traits of her own in moving ever upwards and feeling ever more comfortable in her rightful place on the LPGA Tour.

As she put it, “I suppose that’s the thing with being on tour week-in, week-out, being in those leading groups or hitting balls next to someone and with all of that you get more comfortable. I very much felt that this year as the year went on . . . I feel like a peer out there on the LPGA.”


Based at Lake Nona in Orlando - where Annika Sorenstam and Ian Poulter are among the large number of professionals who call it home - during the playing season, Maguire's goals will again be written down or locked away in her own head for the upcoming season which will include starts in all five Majors, among them a first visit for the AIG Women's Open to Muirfield.

“We’ll sit down at the end of this year, assess how this year went and make new goals for (2022) like we did this year. The initial schedule’s out so we know more or less where I’m going to be playing; no Solheim Cup, no Olympics this year coming up so the schedule will look a little different and it will be a little easier to plan around and hopefully the travel restrictions and all that, it will be a bit more of a normal year.

“People’s expectations? I mean, people have expected things from me for the last 15 years, so there’s really nothing I can do about that, they can expect whatever they want. Ultimately it’s me putting in the time and the effort so the only one that gets to demand anything of me is me.

“And I will have high expectations for myself but at the same time I’m not going to put pressure on myself to do things that other people want. I’ll work as hard as I can and hopefully the results will follow but ultimately you need a lot of things to line up and you can’t be too focused on outcomes. It will be more on the effort that I put in and see where that takes me.”