Leading from the front! How Leona Maguire a Solheim Cup rookie in 2021 took the fight to America in their own backyard and came out on top
Solheim Cup debuts don’t come any better than Leona Maguire’s. After an impressive if unspectacular rookie LPGA season in 2020, two runner-up finishes and three more top-10s in 2021 were enough to secure a wildcard pick for Catriona Matthew’s European Team.
“It was a big goal this year but I tried not to think about it too much,” said the 26-year-old upon selection, “but it is a big deal. No Irish woman has ever done it before. I’m the first – hopefully, I won’t be the last – but yeah, it’s going to be a really special week.”
Little did she realize just how quickly she’d become a household name, even among casual golf fans, thanks to her exploits at the Inverness Club in Ohio.
It was a mark of Matthew’s faith in Maguire that, not only did she put the rookie out in the morning foursomes, but she was also chosen to lead the pairing off the first tee. Seventeen holes later, she faced a four-footer for the match. The usually calm and collected Irishwoman let her guard slip and roared “come on” as the ball dropped into the hole.
Jessica and Nelly Korda were expected to be America’s strongest pairing, but Europe’s youngest player Mel Reid proved too good for them. It was Leona Maguire’s breakthrough moment.
Speaking in the aftermath, Maguire’s words were an indicator of the mindset she’d taken into the team room. “I think everybody had written us off today,” she said, “and we just sort of took that in our stride and wanted to be as relentless and fearless as possible.”
Five matches over three days is a big ask, especially when the mental toll of playing for something bigger than yourself is taken into consideration, and it’s no surprise that both team captains opted to rest each of the players for one of the four paired sessions before Sunday singles.
All except one, that is. ‘Never change a winning formula’ is a popular adage in sport, and it was evident that week that Maguire was a winning formula not to be tinkered with. She was the only player to feature in five matches.
Three and a half points from four heading into the singles, she faced old college foe Jennifer Kupcho – and cruised to a 5&4 victory, completing the most dominant performance ever given by a rookie. She also provided the platform for Europe to secure a nail-biting 15-13 win.
“The big thing I’ll take from the Solheim Cup is the feeling that I belong out here,” she reflected. Bit by bit this year, I felt more and more comfortable with every week.”
Now, two years older and as a two-time LPGA Tour winner, Maguire is set to qualify easily due to her World Ranking, with only recent Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier ahead of her from a European perspective.
In Ohio, she had the experienced Mel Reid offering guidance, but this time she’s prepared to play an even bigger role and take one of the rookies under her wing at Finca Cortesin.
A formidable fourball opponent and ideal foursomes partner, if you’re looking for a steady hand to guide a nervous rookie taking their first steps, it’s hard to think of anyone better suited. She may even be Europe’s MVP.
“The big thing I’ll take from the Solheim Cup is the feeling that I belong out here. Bit by bit this year, I felt more and more comfortable every week.”
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About the author
Golf Equipment Writer
Will Shreeve-Peacock is a golf equipment writer for todays-golfer.com, specializing in golf shoes, GPS watches, rangefinders, and training aids.
He has a degree in journalism from Sheffield Hallam University and four years of experience working in golf retail with American Golf. Will was part of the sales and fitting team, making him the perfect man to review golf equipment.
Will started playing golf more than a decade ago at Thorney Lakes Golf Club, Cambridgeshire and is now a member at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincolnshire. His handicap index is 5.8, largely thanks to his scratch-standard short game.
Away from golf, Will enjoys going to the gym, cooking, spending time with his friends, and watching his beloved Manchester United.
Will uses a Cobra LTDx Driver, Cobra LTDx 3-Wood, TaylorMade P790 2-iron, Callaway X Forged 18 Irons (4-PW), Wilson Staff Model Wedges (52°, 58°), TaylorMade White smoke IN-12 Blade putter and the TaylorMade TP5x Golf ball.
When he’s not testing golf shoes, he chooses to wear FootJoy Hyperflex or Under Armour Charged Phantom. He uses a Shotscope Pro L2 rangefinder, and his favorite training aid is the PuttOut Pressure Putt Trainer and mat.