IRELAND's Leona Maguire reflected on a “big learning week” after finishing in a four-way tie for ninth on Sunday at the Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced in Daly City, California.
The Cavan girl opened with a 65 on Thursday but failed to break 70 over the final three rounds, closing with two-under 70 on Sunday, eight shots shy of first-time LPGA Tour winner, Finland’s Matilda Castren.
That achievement still eludes Maguire but it was her third top-10 finish on the LPGA tour this season and she declared herself “proud of how I fought to secure another top 10.”
She added on Twitter: “It was great to have so many Irish out cheering me on in San Fran, can’t wait to come back next year.”
The 26-year-old Castren became the first from Finland to win an LPGA event with her 274 total for the four days (71, 69, 69, 65).
“I knew one day it would be me,” said Castren, fighting back emotion after the triumph, “but you didn’t think it was going to be so soon.”
Meanwhile, another of golf’s brightest young talents, 22-year-old South African Garrick Higgo, claimed a remarkable one-shot victory at only his second PGA Tour event after long-time leader Chesson Hadley folded on the final stretch at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
Higgo’s day began with a call from South African golfing great Gary Player and ended in triumph - just like so many of Player’s Sundays did in his Hall of Fame career.
The 85-year-old Player told his rising, young countryman not to worry about trailing leader Chesson Hadley by six shots starting the final round.
“He’d told me he’s done it before, won quite a few times from six behind, seven behind,” Higgo recalled. “Just try and do your thing and stay up there. You don’t know what can happen.” Player was right as Higgo remained patient and steady throughout — and made sure to take advantage when opportunities arose.
The left-hander did that with a closing 3-under 68 — his fourth round in the 60s this week — charged by an eagle on the par-5 12th hole and a birdie on the 14th to reach 11-under, the winning score.
He also benefitted from a late collapse by Hadley, who held the lead after the second and third rounds. Hadley, seeking his first tour win since 2014, was still ahead by two shots starting the 16th hole. But a wayward tee shot led to a bogey there and he failed to get up and down on the 71st and 72nd holes to give away the win.
“I can only imagine what it looked like on TV because it looked freaking awful from my view,” he said. “I just didn’t have it today. It was bad and (I’ve) got to do better and I will.”
Player later posted his congratulations to Higgo on social media. Player called it “one of the most enjoyable things for me to witness in my career. He is without a doubt the most humble, well mannered young man that you could wish to meet. Watch this space, big things to come!”
Higgo had won twice on the European Tour in the Canary Islands before playing in the PGA Championships on Kiawah Island, where he tied for 64th. He’ll head West to Torrey Pines for the US Open this week.