Maguire honoured at Sportswoman Awards


Golfer Leona Maguire was honoured at the recent Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards after a string of strong performances in the early stages of the LPGA tour.

After a brilliant opening round of 67 in the ANA Inspiration in California Maguire secured her first ever LPGA Tour top 10 finish on American soil when she birdied the last two holes to tie for sixth with defending champion Danielle Kang. While that early form earned her a congratulatory text from Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew and led to her claiming the Sportswoman of the Month award for March, it was really just a sign of things to come.

Having started 2021 in 177th place in the Rolex world rankings, the 27-year-old from Ballyconnell has now broken into the Top 50 after claiming five top-10s, including two runner-ups in her 22 tournaments. 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).

In August, Maguire and Stephanie Meadow performed really well when representing Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics, however, it was her display in the Solheim Cup the following month which stole all the headlines. Playing for the first time in the biennial Europe v USA team event – the first Irish woman to make the team – Maguire was the star of the show, claiming an all-time record haul of four and a half points for a rookie to lead Team Europe to a 15 – 13 win.

She later described making her Solheim Cup debut for Europe not just as her highlight of the year, but probably the highlight of her career so far and said the experience would help her to take confidence into regular LPGA Tour events.

European Team Captain Catriona Matthew said of Leona in October: “She brought 4 1/2 points to the team, which was most important, plus a real grittiness. She’d been playing really well all year and, on form, was one of our top players going into it. I had followed her amateur career as well and knew she’d done well in the Curtis Cup, so I knew she had experience in match play. She’s one of those gritty characters that never gives up. Always a fighter. Hopefully the way she played at Solheim can springboard her into next year. I know she’s looking to get a win on the LPGA, and I can certainly see that in her future.”

Looking ahead to the new season Leona said that while she has high expectations and will set her own targets, the focus will be on the effort she puts in.

“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.”

This was the 18th year of the awards and Maguire – who won her first Sportswoman of the Month award aged 12 with her twin Lisa in 2007 - was among 12 other monthly award winners nominated for the 2021 title. Other monthly award winners included boxer Kellie Harrington, Meath footballer Vikki Wall and swimmer Ellen Keane.