Homecoming for Solheim star
The European victory in the Solheim Cup in Toledo, Ohio, was not only a remarkable achievement for the 26-year-old Cavan woman who stole the show in her debut appearance, it was also a source of great pride for her family watching the tournament in their Ballyconnell home.
The Maguires were unable to cross the Atlantic to see Leona’s astonishing performance in the 17th edition of the golf tournament because of travel restrictions, but it didn’t dampen their enjoyment of the thrilling contest.
“It’s just unreal,” the emotion in Breda Maguire’s voice is that of a mother’s pride in the achievement of her child.
For the three-day contest, the family home became an enclave of Ohio: “The house was full. Our family and friends were in over the weekend. We were disappointed we didn’t get to America, but the support we had at home, the fact our family were able to come over and watch with us, was great. When you share an experience like that, it adds to the enjoyment,” Breda told the Celt.
Leona’s story is staggering. From the gamble of putting the rookie pairing of Leona, the first player from Ireland to compete in the biennial event, and Mel Reid up against the stars of the US show, Nelly and Jessica Korda, to the Ballyconnell girl’s stellar 4.5 out of five-point score.
By vanquishing the supreme force of ladies’ golf, Leona and Mel set a tone that carried through the European performance: “For Leona to have such a wonderful tournament of team golf, which she revels in, is just fantastic. It’s great to see her so happy and taking such pride in representing Europe, Ireland and Cavan,” Breda tells.
“Throughout their amateur careers both girls (Leona and Lisa) loved team events.”
Beating the Korda sisters on the first day was a big deal. Breda says her daughter’s performance was building to that crescendo: “She went into the tournament playing really well. That gave her confidence. Nothing succeeds like success. The better you play, the more confident you become and the more formidable opponent you become.”
The remarkable partnership with Mel Reid that sparked the European dream into life was instrumental in the victory: “Mel is someone she would not have known very well on tour, she was familiar with her, but not on a personal basis. When Beanie (team captain Catriona Matthew) put them together, she must have seen something in the two of them as a pair that would be a winning combination. And she was right.”
Leona has written her name in the history books with her weekend performance. “She’ll take pride in that. As Leona grew up, she had the people she looked up to, people who inspired her. She very proud that she can act as an inspiration to others,” said her mum.
Breda is looking forward to the Solheim Cup winner’s return to Ballyconnell: “She will be home tomorrow morning (Wednesday), for about a fortnight. Then she will be heading back out to the States again back on tour to the ‘normal’ tournaments. She will have a few more tournaments before the end of the LPGA season.”
The champion’s mum acknowledges the bitter sweetness of having a global superstar daughter: “Years ago when herself and Lisa headed to college, that was a big one. They have always travelled a lot. I suppose that’s part and parcel of the enjoyment. The anticipation of them coming home and getting together again is fabulous. Please God, in the future, we will get to travel and watch her play more. We look forward to that. Of course you miss them,” Breda concluded.