Leona Maguire admits that her decision to take on caddie Dermot Byrne last June has been a gamer-changer for her career.
Formerly with Shane Lowry, Byrne came on the bag two weeks after Leona threw away a five-up lead against Jennifer Kupcho in the Bank of Hope LPGA Matchplay in Las Vegas last June and his calm demeanour, dry wit, and vast experience proved key as she went on to enjoy a spectacular year.
“Dermot has been a massive help to me,” Leona said after her win on Saturday night. “I feel like Vegas was a turning point for me last year. I felt like I really let that one slip. That phone call to Dermot really sort of changed the entire season. He’s been a part of a lot of big events and some big wins obviously with Shane.
“He took a big gamble coming out here on the LPGA never having done it before. I guess he saw something in me and felt like he could make a difference.”
The Bray native earned his keep early in the final round when Brittany Altomare made five birdies in her first six holes to draw level with the Co Cavan star. But Leona made a key birdie at the short seventh, then relied on Byrne’s advice to hit a stellar 135-yard eight iron from the pin straw to five feet at the eighth.
“It was a little bit in between clubs and I wanted to hit a little seven and just chip it there. It was into the wind a little bit and Dermot said, ‘No, hit eight and hit it as hard as you can. Just try and get good contact, ride the wind a little bit, draw it in.’ Right before I hit it he was like, ‘Clear your feet, make sure you don’t slip’, because I slip at the best of times. So, yeah, that was definitely a good call for him. It was huge for momentum.”