Lisa Maguire takes bravest step of all

Lisa Maguire takes bravest step of all
Lisa Maguire: ‘I never wanted to get to a point where I resented the game".

Lisa Maguire’s decision to retire from professional tournament golf just 17 months after taking the plunge will come as no surprise to regular observers of the vicissitudes of life in the paid ranks.

Even those who turn professional at the top of their games find it difficult to adjust to life on tour. And for all her impressive early success, the older of the Maguire twins (by all of 15 minutes) ultimately struggled to regain the sparkle of old.

In truth, her decision is a brave one, given that many go on for too long and ultimately fall out of love with golf because the memories are too painful.

As she told the Irish Golfer yesterday: “I never wanted to get to a point where I resented the game.”

Now 24, she has opted to work for the Modest! Golf management group owned by singer Niall Horan that guides her sister’s career. Given her intelligence and her knowledge of the game, she can only be an asset to the fledgeling agency as interest in the women’s game continues to grow.

She will go down as one of the most successful Irish female golfers of all time.

But while she helped Duke University win the ACC Championships in 2017 and 2018, the game that brought her 16 amateur titles on this side of the Atlantic — as well as Junior Solheim Cup and Curtis Cup appearances — slowly abandoned her.

As she made the transition and grew stronger physically, her long game deteriorated, and she never got it back.

As Leona rocketed up the world rankings to become amateur golf’s world number one, Lisa went through a series of swing changes shortly after arriving at Duke University that became hugely painful.

Once ranked comfortably inside the top-10 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, she was 810th in the world during her first year in college as Duke University’s head coach Dan Brooks set about rebuilding her swing.

“It was a big swing change I decided to make at the start of college, and it wasn’t the easiest thing, trying to do that and get a degree,” Lisa said ahead of her professional debut in the ShopRite Classic, where she would miss the cut after rounds of 84 and 82.

Her struggles were summed up by Brooks after she helped Duke win the East Lake Cup in Atlanta in 2016 and his words proved prophetic.

“I was watching a game that August and September that isn’t going to be on the LPGA Tour,” he said of the swing he felt he simply had to change.

“It’s not going there. It’s going to struggle on the Symetra Tour, maybe, and it’s going to fizzle out, and she’s going to do something else. That’s what I’m watching.

“I could have squeezed a lot of good golf out of that in college, but she would have been at a dead-end in four years.”

What followed was tough to watch for Lisa, Leona, and their coach.

While Leona earned “NCAA Player of the Year” honours in 2014-15, Lisa didn’t shoot in the 60s her entire freshman season, finishing no better than 40th in her last eight events.

The low point came at the 2015 NCAA Championship, where she shot four consecutive rounds in the 80s and finished 83rd out of 84 players on 51 over par.

“It’s been tough for me to watch her go through it,” Leona said at the time.

“But it’s been tougher for her to go through it herself. I try to be as supportive as I can and help her any way I can.”

Despite it all, the sisters inspired each other, and while making it on tour as twinsensations was always going to be a long shot, it was important that they continue their journey together as sisters and friends.

“Lisa’s resilience over the last few years has been pretty inspiring to me,” Leona said when they made their professional debuts in Atlantic City in June 2018.

I think there is no one that’s worked harder in my eyes to sort of get back to where she was.

“Just seeing her attitude as well, never really giving up.

“I think that’s something that is going to hold her in great stead for the years to come.”

Lisa played sporadically this year on the LET Access Series — the equivalent of the Challenge Tour for the Ladies European Tour.

But after finishing tied 41st in the Terre Blanche Ladies Open in April and a career-best tied sixth in the Neuchatel Ladies Championship in May, she missed her next four cuts.

“Golf has been very good to me over the last number of years, and it’s been a huge part of my life,” she said of her new career with Modest. “I think this is just another chapter of that.”

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