Leona Maguire is set to become Ireland’s first representative on Team Europe when she tees off in the Solheim Cup this weekend. As the news broke, the Cavan woman made the headlines near and far. A few days after the big announcement, and back home in Ballyconnell, Leona took some time to chat to Katrina Brennan about her career and life on and off the greens and her hopes for this weekend.
Back home in Ballyconnell for the week, digesting the news that she has earned her place on the Solheim Cup team this weekend and digesting her mother Breda’s home cooking. Can life get any better for Leona Maguire?
It has been a whirlwind year for the 26 year-old rookie, who has has produced nine top 15 finishes this season and only weeks ago shot a major record-tying 61 in the final round of the Evian Championship in France. Such performances and the consistency of Leona’s play didn’t go unnoticed by Team Europe captain, Catriona Matthew, who named the Ballyconnell golfer as a wildcard for the tournament in Ohio this weekend, making her the first Irish woman to represent Team Europe.
And since the announcement, everyone wants to talk to one of Ireland’s biggest sporting stars. It has been a “busy few days” she admits but “it’s a good problem to have, if everyone wants to talk to me I must be doing something right!” she laughs.
While the world found out the news last Monday week, Leona knew her fate before the British Open in Carnoustie, so she has had that little bit longer to let it sink in.
“I got to play with Catriona Matthew one of the practice days and she told me. It was nice to know a few days before the team was announced, the pressure was off that she was giving me the nod.
“It’s been a dream come true, it’s something I’ve hoped to have been a part of for a long time. I suppose you work for it and you hope you’ll be there but there’s no guarantees that you will make it that far. It’s a mix of excitmemt and a bit of relief at the same time.”
And to be the first Irish woman is a “huge honour” says Leona.
“Growing up me and Lisa played on the 2009 and 2011 Junior Solheim Cup and we got to go watch the main one then a few days after. There was never an Irish person in it, all the other girls always had Swedish people or German people or French people to cheer on but there was never an Irish person in it.
“So, yeah, hopefully it’ll give young girls in Ireland something to look up to and watch and follow on TV and they’ll see it’s possible for them to do it now aswell.”
As a young girl Leona and her twin sister Lisa made their first real forray into the world of golf when Lisa cracked her elbow and the consultant advised her to pick up a racket sport. Golf was the chosen game and at that time the Maguire’s were living in Enniskillen, so they went out to Castle Hume Golf course and there happened to be a 3 hole competition on, and no prizes for guessing who won- Leona, a sign of things to come!
Their passion for the game continued when the family moved to Ballyconnell and Leona says,
“The Slieve Russell has been a big part of the journey and we’re fortunate that Sean Quinn had the foresight to build the hotel and the golf course. If the Slieve Russell wasn’t there, me and Lisa probably wouldn’t have played golf.
“I mean, we started off at the 9 hole par three course and if that wasn’t there, dad probably wouldn’t have been playing golf, so he probably wouldn’t have brought us to play golf and I don’t know what I’d be at,” she laughs.
Sport has always played a major role in Leona’s life but as a family they had a great passion for playing and watching all different sports. A trait that has been passed on from her father, Declan.
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