Down to her final semester at Duke University, three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First-Team All-American Leona Maguire (Cavan, Ireland) is entering the twilight of her amateur career.
The No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a marketing and management certificate. Meanwhile, on the course, there’s only one thing on her mind.
“My goal is to win a National Championship with my team,” said Maguire, also a two-time WGCA National Player of the Year.
It’s basically the last piece of hardware missing from Maguire’s collegiate mantel.
She was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2015, is a two-time ACC Player of the Year, three-time All-ACC selection and two-time ANNIKA Award recipient. In addition, Maguire is a two-time ACC Championship individual title winner, as well as a two-time NCAA Championship individual title runner-up.
Arguably the most impressive accomplishment, however, is the 70.29 stroke average that Maguire collected her junior season, the second-lowest in NCAA history. It is also a Duke and ACC single-season record.
“Having consistency is big for me and my iron play is generally one of the stronger parts of my game,” Maguire said. “I like giving myself lots of birdie chances and how low I shoot depends on how well I putt any given day.”
Beyond the national and conference honors, Maguire has a thumbprint on just about every page of the Duke record book as well. Her nine wins rank third in Blue Devils history and she is second with 27 rounds in the 60s. Furthermore, Maguire is tied for second with 21 top-five finishes and tied for third with 30 top-10 performances.
With as illustrious of a collegiate career as Maguire has had, there is no doubt as to why she is the top-ranked amateur.
“Being No. 1 in the world is an incredible honor, following in the footsteps of Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson, both of whom I look up to,” said Maguire. “I try not to focus much on my world ranking and instead just focus on constantly improving all aspects of my game.”
She’s done more than follow in their footsteps. Maguire has gone head-to-head with the best in the world. She has eight LPGA Tour starts, including seven in four majors with her best finish of tied for 25th coming at the 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Also in 2016, Maguire represented her home country of Ireland at the Summer Olympics in Rio. She tied for 21st overall and finished tied for the low amateur. If that isn’t enough, Maguire claimed the 2017 Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship.
This year, the Duke senior can get a maximum of six LPGA invites and is hopeful to get as close to that number as possible. Maguire said she will also compete in the Monday qualifier for several tournaments.
“Leona is ready to succeed as a professional,” said Duke women’s golf head coach Dan Brooks. “She already picks and chooses wisely — how she practices, how she lives, who she spends time with. I’ve never felt more confident in anyone I’ve coached.”
After competing at Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament last year, Maguire elected to skip Stage III in order to preserve her amateur status and complete her collegiate eligibility. By finishing tied for ninth at Stage II, however, she secured Symetra Tour status for 2018.
Still, the earliest we would see Maguire on the Symetra Tour is sometime after the NCAA Championship, which takes place May 18-23 in Stillwater, Okla., at Karsten Creek Golf Club.
“I feel as prepared as I can possibly be. Obviously, adjusting to life on Tour will take some time, but I’m excited for the challenges that it poses,” Maguire said. “I’ve learned a lot about my golf swing and how to manage it. I definitely have to take more ownership of my game, which I think will prepare me well for life on Tour.”
Working with swing coach Shane O’Grady for nearly a decade now has allowed Maguire to develop consistency in her game. She’ll continue under O’Grady’s tutelage once she turns professional.
Until that time, Maguire will cherish every moment with her Blue Devils teammates. They begin the chase for a National Championship on Feb. 11 at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, Calif.
“In my opinion, the tours—Symetra and the LPGA—need all the Leona Maguires they can find,” said Brooks. “Above all else, I place Leona at the top of my list of players with potential because she actually gets it. She will continue to love professional golf for what it really is, not the myth. She’s wise enough to have explored it, and she still passionately wants it.”