FORSYTH, Ill. — After completing their collegiate careers for Duke University last month in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Leona Maguire (Cavan, Ireland) and twin sister Lisa Maguire (Cavan, Ireland) have now shifted to life as a professional.
Last week, they made their pro debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, N.J., and this week they make their Symetra Tour debut in the 34th annual Forsyth Classic. We caught up with the Blue Devils alumna prior to the start of the eighth tournament on the 2018 Symetra Tour schedule to get their perspective about the new journey they are starting.
Q: As a student-athlete, what did it mean for you to attend Duke University and how does the Duke family extend beyond your time on campus?
Leona: “Duke was a special place. I think I couldn’t really have asked for a better place to spend my four years. After graduating, a lot of people have asked me what I’m going to miss most. I think what I’m going to miss most is the people. The friendships and the memories I had there, they’re going to last way beyond those four years and they’re something I think if I had left early, I might’ve missed out on.”
Lisa: “The four years were amazing at Duke. It really became a home away from home. Right from the get-go, it was nice being so far away from home that there was such a close-knit community at Duke. It’s a small school, so you kind of got to know everybody pretty quick. Outside the golf family, we traveled so much it was nice to meet Duke supporters on the road; we had a lot of host families, a lot of supporters out there. Definitely got to know a lot of people and continuing those contacts going forward is nice.”
Q: What did it mean for you to make your professional golf debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic with your sister Lisa also in the field?
Leona: “It was special. Waited a long time for it and it was nice that we got to do it together. I think ShopRite was a great event to start with. The people there were so friendly, so helpful and there was really great crowds up there. It was really nice to see, there was a lot of Irish-American people that came out to support and watch, which I was not expecting. That gave it a nice, extra touch. I played well as well, which always helps.”
Q: What did it mean for you to make your professional golf debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic with your sister Leona also in the field?
Lisa: “That was pretty special. We grew up playing together, we’ve always played together, so it was nice that we could make that transition together, kind of share that journey. Obviously, the next couple years could be a little different, so it was definitely nice just to have the one moment together.”
Q: You are the newest ambassadors for KPMG Golf and Modest Golf. How nice is it to work with both companies and have their support as soon as you step into the professional world?
Leona: “Especially in the women’s game, a lot of people struggle to find sponsors. We’ve been very fortunate to have a huge global company like KPMG on board. They’re obviously a great team already with Stacy Lewis and Phil [Mickelson], so it’s great to be a part with them. They obviously have very strong values, very professional, lots of integrity and they have a lot of initiatives in the women’s game right now with [KPMG Women’s] PGA Championships and Women’s Leadership Summit. They’re just a really good fit for us to be a part of and even in the first few weeks of working with them, we can tell that they’re just a really great company, really great people to be around. I think it’s going to be a really exciting relationship and then same for Modest. We wanted to go small, we wanted to go with a company that was ambitious, professional, and I think they’re excited to get into the women’s game. It’s nice to be their first female players and their first Irish players. Even from the first few weeks, again, it has been great so far. Excited for what the future holds in that regard.”
Lisa: “KPMG is such a global company, it is nice to have their support, especially from the beginning. Their values, they’ve got really into supporting female golf with their Women’s PGA Championship. It’s nice to kind of grow with them, as they’re getting more into golf. The names they’ve got right now in Stacy Lewis and Phil Mickelson, it’s nice to be part of that family and associated with those names. Modest has been great right from the beginning. Obviously, their support means a lot starting a good, new journey. I guess myself and Leona are their first two female players, so it’s nice to be starting the journey together, learning as we go along and hopefully growing together.”
Q: Leona, you rewrote the Duke record book and established yourself as one of the all-time greats in the history of NCAA women’s golf. From an individual standpoint, what mark are you most proud of and why?
Leona: “Each of my wins were special in their own regard, obviously my first one, winning in that playoff I’ll always remember, each of my ACC wins, too. I think probably my scoring average, the records that I set with it. Having the lowest ever career scoring average in NCAA history was pretty nice, knowing the players that have gone before me. With the scoring average and having shot some low numbers, and also doing it on a very consistent basis over the four years.”
Q: You also broke the record for number of weeks ranked No. 1 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. Where do you anticipate the greatest learning component will be as you transition from an amateur to professional?
Leona: “I think being on Tour, going from week to week. I guess in college and amateur golf, there’s a lot more you play in an event, you have a week off, couple weeks off, something like that. But here there’s a lot more back-to-back, so just sort of managing the travel and scheduling from that standpoint. Knowing when to go on a run of events, when to take a break and adapting to different courses, different conditions, playing in Pro-Am [events]. Just the sort of extra things that got along with professional golf.”
Q: Lisa, you rose as high as 35th in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, and also won the Great Britain and Ireland Women’s Order of Merit. How do you translate the success you experienced as an amateur into a successful professional career?
Lisa: “I think obviously the professional ranks are a little bit of a step-up from the amateur game. At the same time, it’s still the same golf that you play in amateur, that you play in the pros. It’s taking what you have and just improve week in and week out, improve everything just a little bit more to see how it stacks up.”
Q: You’re a sponsor’s exemption this week for the Forsyth Classic. How eager are you to make your first Symetra Tour start as a professional and build on how you perform here?
Lisa: “It’s exciting, always nice to get a sponsor’s invite. It’s always nice to get that sort of support. Starting on the Symetra Tour, that is obviously the road to the LPGA and that’s where I want to be. It’s definitely nice to get a foot in the door and try to play as well as possible this week to build some confidence going into the next couple of weeks.”
Q: What are your goals for the rest of 2018, both on and off the course?
Leona: “I mean, my main goal is to get my LPGA card. Hopefully I can do that through the Symetra Tour and I know I’ll be playing a little bit of catch-up, missing the first seven events. Yeah, to get my LPGA card so I can be out on the LPGA Tour, week in and week out next year. It’ll be a bit of an adjustment I think, transitioning from college to life on the road. I guess maintain all my relationships that I’ve built over the last few years and adjust to professional life as much as I can, and balance what goes with it.”
Lisa: “Right now, it’s just trying to be in as many tournaments as possible, doing well in as many tournaments as possible, trying to gain as much status as possible before Q-School at the end of the year. Off the golf course, it is just to continue to grow and find a nice balance between life on and off the golf course, which is not always easy because we travel so much.”
Q: Outside of golf, what is something people don’t know about you that you think they should?
Leona: “We’re a big sporting family, in general. I’m a big Netflix fan, I think my teammates even in college used to joke when I had homework to do, or whether I’d watch a show, they knew what I’d be doing. Big fan of Netflix, I’m a big ice cream fan, too. Mint chocolate chip.”
Lisa: “I’m a big sports fan in general. I love following all sorts of different sports. That has been the nice thing coming over to the U.S., there’s always something going on whether it’s basketball, baseball, football. Love going to any sort of games, no matter what it is. That was the nice thing about Duke, there’s always something going on, some sport going on.”