“Ah sure it was unbelievable. It was a rollercoaster, to be honest. It could not have gone better, the way everything went” beams Declan. “Even on Sunday evening, in the fourballs, I thought they were going to be unlucky when Jennifer Kupcho chipped in on the 17th and they (USA) were in with a good shout of winning the hole. I think that half point on Sunday evening kind of set it up yesterday (Monday) well, that instead of being one point ahead yesterday, it left the two ahead.”
On Monday, Leona was third out in the singles and Declan says she was slightly disappointed not to have been pitted against Nelly Korda.
“She (Leona) had played her down the stretch in one of those LPGA events and she had finished runner up with her and she felt she had left that behind and she just wanted to prove she could beat Nelly on her own.”
Instead, it was Jennifer Kupcho who she ended up beating comprehensively 5 and 4 on the final day.
“She (Leona) got a whisper that Jennifer Kupcho had said in the locker room that she was going to take Leona down, I think that made Leona twice as determined.”
It’s that determination and drive that sets Leona apart, ever since she was a child, says Declan.
“If Leona was playing with Duke, when she was playing with Castle Hume in Enniskillen, the ladies down there probably remember her. Leona will give it her absolute all, no matter what team she is representing. She wouldn’t want to take the whole limelight, she just wants to play golf and she wants to perform at her very best, in whatever match she’s playing.”
And as the balls rolled in, we saw more and more of Leona’s personality shine through and more and more fist pumps, which is not always the case, admits her father.
“That’s the one thing people would say to you, Leona would never get too excited when she won – I think this meant so much to her, to be representing Europe, to be representing Ireland on the world stage.
“Leona would know they were going in as underdogs and that they needed to get momentum and she knew she’s as good as them and let the American’s see they were up for it. You can’t be over the top with it but they needed to see we mean business here and that was part of it, her intention with the fist pump, send a message home, we’re not going away you know.”
And as Leona celebrated on the course, her twin sister Lisa watched on from the side, willing each ball into the hole. A talented golfer herself, who only opted out of the professional game in 2019.
“They are two great girls” says their father, “and I’m sure Lisa would’ve had thoughts at the weekend too, that she could’ve been in that situation as well. A twist of faith kind of changed her direction. Lisa as we know maybe won more amateur events than Leona won before they went to Duke. It just didn’t work out for her, coaches changed her swing and she just couldn’t get the same consistency back into it.
“ I’m sure over the weekend she had them thoughts but Lisa wouldn’t let Leona know it, even if she was having those thoughts. Lisa’s focus would’ve been making sure Leona performed at her very, very best.
“At the end of the day they are twins, they’ve done everything together, used to always dress the same, they’re best pals and if Leona was getting a bit above her station, Lisa wouldn’t be slow to bring her back to brass tacks.
“Above all, Lisa would’ve been a great support there as well, keeping her calm when things were getting a little bit excitable. Lisa would’ve been there saying ‘next match, next match, focus on the next one’.”
The ‘Lisa factor’ has been a big part of Leona’s successful year, says Declan.
“Leona really started to move up the steps when Lisa went out to help her as part of the management company and when Dermot Bryne her caddy was there as well, those two in the background made a huge difference to Leona during the year.”
To read more on this story see this week’s Fermanagh Herald. Can’t get to the shop to collect your copy? No problem! You can download a copy straight to your device by following this link https://bit.ly/3gOl8G0
Posted: 5:00 pm September 9, 2021