Leona Maguire focused on Modest ambitions

Leona Maguire has more immediate objectives for her professional career than the cause she is advocating as a 20x20 ambassador.

The Cavan golfer continues her transition from the world’s leading amateur to a rookie pro over the next four weeks as she bids to earn her Ladies European Tour card at the Tour School finals in Morocco.

After an agonisingly near miss at the LPGA Tour Q-School in Florida last month, when she missed out on the second stage of qualifying by a single shot, Maguire, 23, has turned her sights on Europe and will gear up for the December 7-10 LET Tour School final round by first heading to the Open de Espana at La Quinta, starting on November 22.

In the meantime, Maguire will be preparing on her home course.

“I’m back home and back practising at Slieve Russell and getting some good work in with my coach Shane O’Grady,” Maguire told the Irish Examiner.

“Just getting some good, quality practice in. I’m just fine-tuning everything, working on my short game and getting back in the gym as well.

“I’ve got an LET event in Spain a week before Tour School and I’m going to try to use that as a really good prep event and then go to Morocco for Tour School.”

By the time she arrives at Amelkis Golf Club in Morocco, in which she and twin sister Lisa have both entered, the sisters will have turned 24 years of age following their November 30 birthdays.

And Leona feels she is armed with greater belief that she can get through the inevitably daunting Q-School scenario now she has experienced heartache in the American equivalent.

“Absolutely, If anything it has spurred me on to work a little harder in the off-season. Obviously coming that close is more evidence that I’m not that far away after the LPGA events I have played and the majors I’ve played.

“So I know I can compete with the girls out on the LPGA, it’s just a case of working my way up and getting myself out there.”

The switch from life as an elite amateur to tour professional is not as smooth as one imagines, even if you happen to have been the best in the world, as Maguire was for 134 weeks. She turned pro in May and kicked her career off playing on LPGA Tour invitations as well as the second-tier Symetra Tour and the weekly grind has taken quite a lot of getting used to for the Irishwoman.

Asked to name the biggest lesson she has learned since turning pro, she replied: “I think just getting used to life on tour. There’s been a lot of travel and a lot of events, all back to back.

“I think one of the big things in the amateur game is the events are a lot more spread out and having started the season halfway in and missed the first half of the season I had to catch up a little bit and so I had a six-week run of events all in a row that I had never done before.

“So it was adjusting to that and the different things that come with that. Playing in pro-ams and different golf courses every week, different grasses and travel and all the adjustments with that, it just takes a little bit of learning to figure it out.

“Having to plan out my weeks, whether it’s a Friday start or a Thursday start, whether I’m in the pro-am or not, and planning out my practice rounds and my practice schedule. So it definitely took some adjustments.”

Having a strong support in place is crucial on both sides of pro-am divide and Maguire is now grateful to have added the Modest! Golf management company, set up by Niall Horan, to her team.

“I’m very fortunate to have good people around me, starting at home. My parents have sacrificed a lot to get myself and Lisa to where we are and that’s continued into the professional game.

Shane (O’Grady) has been with me now for 10 years and now Mark (McDonnell) and all the guys at Modest! as well have been a tremendous help, sorting out a lot of the detail that comes along with professional golf.

“I’m very lucky to have the team that I have to help make that transition as smooth as possible.”

And while Maguire continues her ambassadorial role with the 20x20 campaign to increase female participation, attendance and media coverage across all sports by 20 per cent by the year 2020, she also has a firm idea of where she wants her own game to be by then.

“A lot can happen in two years. I’d love to be out on the LPGA and playing every week out there and the Olympics will be coming up again in 2020 in Tokyo. I had a fantastic experience in Rio so I would love to have the opportunity to play in the Olympics again.

“So, just try and improve. The past six months has been a big learning experience for me, so just try and improve my game and get out onto the LPGA and keep playing in majors. That’s my goal for 2020.”

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