She was the only player to play five matches at the Solheim Cup earlier this month and the only player to go undefeated, so naturally Leona Maguire received the reception of a conquering hero upon her return home to Ireland.
“I had seen posts on Twitter and Instagram and social media of how excited people were back home,” said Maguire. “But I don't think I fully grasped it.”
The second-year LPGA Tour rookie was greeted at Dublin Airport by her dad, Declan. Their first stop was Castletara National School, where he teaches.
“All the kids had prepared poems and dances and songs and all of this, so we stopped for that,” Maguire added. “Then I went to bed for a few hours and dad said there was something [going on] in our local town that evening.”
After a brief, albeit much-needed nap following a long travel day from Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, Maguire was the cause for celebration in Ballyconnell, a one stop sign, blinking yellow light kind of town.
“You go over the bridge, turn right, and we did a loop around and then back to the [Slieve Russell] golf club where I grew up playing. There is a hotel and they had set up a little stage, so we did some chatting and answered questions, stuff like that, and then we had a little bit of food and music after,” she said. “The response was just incredible. Wasn't expecting anything like that.
“Went through my local town in a gold convertible, and my 94-year-old grandmother was in the front waving to everybody. It was fun for me to see her enjoying it so much. It has been a quiet two years for her. She's on Facebook and had fun seeing all the messages from around the world, but for her to see a lot of people she hadn't seen in a while, and everybody sort of congratulating and messaging her was probably one of the most special things for me.”
Before venturing back to America for the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, where she made her professional debut in 2018, Maguire also made an appearance on RTE’s The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy. It was a grand party for a mellow star who is the least concerned with recognition for any of her individual accomplishments.
“The Solheim Cup wasn't about me. It was about whatever I could do for the team. Getting a team win, for Beany, the captains, for the rest of my teammates, and then also coming home and for everybody else to enjoy as well, I suppose that is the special thing about Solheim Cup or a Ryder Cup. You're part of something a lot bigger than yourself,” Maguire said. “I kind of knew that at the time, but going home I really felt it. Hopefully it has inspired a younger generation of Irish players who someday want to be on the Solheim Cup or even take part in any sport. I don't really care what sport it is, but I think there is a great buzz around the country right now about sport and women's sport, and I suppose things like the Solheim Cup can only help.”
Maguire now turns her attention back to the LPGA stroke-play competition after riding the high of the last three weeks. Her most recent appearance was at the AIG Women’s Open, one of seven straight top-15 results. Maguire will look to continue the magic she showcased at the Solheim Cup and consistency she developed before the break, which she deflects all credit to her caddie Dermot Byrne.
“He has been a huge help on the bag keeping me calm and making a few better decisions. I think I have just been saving a few more shots around the greens and not giving away silly mistakes,” said Maguire. “I would like to finish off the season as strong as I possibly can. If the season ended today I would still be incredibly happy.
“A lot of that momentum from Solheim and off the back of the majors, yeah it would be sort of a cherry on top to finish the year with a win. If I do, great. If not, take the experiences into next year.”