The wee girl who gave a glimpse of her talent in East Lothian 12 years ago is back on Scotland’s Golf Coast aiming to get another whiff of victory in her nostrils.
Leona Maguire was just 12 when she won the Scottish Girls’ Under-16s Open at Craigielaw in 2007, two years before the Irish player also landed the Helen Holm Trophy in a women’s event at Troon.
“Scotland has been good to me,” admitted Maguire, now 24, as she prepared to make her debut in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club. “The Scottish Under-16s Open was probably my first big win and I was just 14 when I then won the Helen Holm in 2009. It’s hard to believe it’s that long ago. I also did well in the 2017 British Open at Kingsbarns as an amateur, so I have happy memories here. The win at Craigielaw was my first outside of Ireland. It was my first taste of an international field and that was a big win for me. It gave me a lift and made me realise I could go a bit further. It’s lovely to be back in this part of the country and hopefully get a similar result.”
Having won twice on the Symetra Tour in the US this season, that’s certainly a possibility and the former world amateur No 1 is relishing being back by the seaside this week.
“It’s been a while since I played a links golf event, probably Kingsbarns for that Women’s Open,” she added. “I grew up with this, but now I’m in the US you don’t get it. There’s a few different shots you have to use and it’s good going back into the locker to draw on those old shots. You never lose that ability to play links golf, it just takes a bit of getting used to it again. You have to get your instincts more switched on, too, and seeing things a bit differently.”
Unlike some, Maguire has made the switch from amateur to pro almost seamlessly. “I’ve been lucky,” she said. “I have the same team around me from my amateur days, the same coach since I was ten or 11. He knows it inside out and my dad is on the bag this week. While you try to adjust, you want to have that familiarity, too. I’m doing OK on the Symetra Tour, so hopefully it will be the LPGA Tour next year and I have my LET card, too. Hopefully the LET gets a bit stronger and I’ll have a few more events on this side of the pond.”
The field for this week’s $1.5- million event includes three of the world’s top seven in defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand, Australian Minjee Lee and this year’s US Women’s Open winner, Jeongeun Lee6. Australian Hannah Green, another major champion this season, is also in the line-up, along with 19 players with Solheim Cup experience.
“We have some of the best players in the world here and that’s good to gauge where your game is,” said Maguire. “It’s a nice test to see where I’m at. Hopefully the weather is kind but then again it won’t do us any harm to get a bit of wind and rain, which lets the course show its teeth a bit.”