Leona Maguire: "Playing on the LPGA Tour would definitely be the dream"

Leona Maguire: "Playing on the LPGA Tour would definitely be the dream"
 Major winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway watches Leona Maguire in the 2012 Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle. Picture © Ladies European Tour / Tristan Jones

Major winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway watches Leona Maguire in the 2012 Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle. Picture © Ladies European Tour / Tristan Jones

They might be heading for Duke University in August but the dream of life on the LPGA Tour remains very much a goal for the Lisa and Leona Maguire.

Having signed letter of intent to attend the North Carolina college last November, the 19-year old identical twins from Ballyconnell in Co Cavan want to test themselves against the best amateurs in the world and see if they are ready then to take the plunge into the professional ranks.

"Playing on the LPGA Tour, against all the best players in the world, that would definitely be the dream," Leona said this week.

"We have four years in Duke and after playing against that calibre of golfer week in and week out for three years, we will have a definite indication about whether we are ready to go pro and we will make a decision at that stage. You can’t make any assumptions about that just yet."

It makes perfect sense for two of the greatest women players ever to emerge from Ireland to take this route rather than dive headlong into a tenuous professional career at this stage of their lives.

Having played team events in the US for many years, including the 2010 Curtis Cup, there was never really any doubt that they would follow in the footsteps of world No 4 Stephanie Meadow and take the US  collegiate golf route.

    Winner Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) with her caddy twin sister Lisa during the final round of the Irish Under 18 Girls' Open Strokeplay Championship at Roganstown Golf Club (22/04/2012). Picture by Pat Cashman  cashmanphotography.ie

 Winner Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) with her caddy twin sister Lisa during the final round of the Irish Under 18 Girls' Open Strokeplay Championship at Roganstown Golf Club (22/04/2012). Picture by Pat Cashman cashmanphotography.ie

"I think that having three-round strokeplay events every week or every second week in a competitive environment will only help," Leona said. "And playing against some of the best people in the world can only help your golf.

"We noticed that in the summer. You could really tell the difference between the college players and those who hadn’t played in college. It is like a mini tour in itself.

"Playing Stephanie and getting to the second round of the US Amateur last year was a great experience, even though I’d been there with Lisa and played a Curtis Cup in 2010. We had been thinking about going to college in the US for a while and that mind up our minds that it was the place to go.

"We went over in November and signed letters of intent shortly after we came back. So we just got accepted into the academics a few weeks ago.

"We also went to visit Purdue University in Chicago as well but while the weather is definitely a bit better in North Carolina, Duke just have everything covered. They are so professional in their set up that it made our decision very easy really."

The multiple championship winning twins have one big tournament to go this year before they head for life in the US - June's Leaving Certificate.

"Right now we are getting ready to sit the mocks and we don’t go over there to start until August 20," Leona said. "We don’t have to decide what we want to major in until after year, but I was thinking of something in science and Lisa mentioned psychology to me.

"Their system is different to ours, a bit broader in the first year, so we will just see how it goes and then specialise as we go on.

"When we went over to visit they showed us all the NCAA trophies they had. The basketball team and the women’s golf have the most but I think they are keen to put a few more in the cabinet.

"There is a French girl over there, Celine Boutier, we have played a lot of golf with her and played Junior Solheim Cup with her in Knightsbrook. So we know her well and she is there and we met her on the visit.

"We won’t be playing anything much until June because of the Leaving Cert and then we’ll play a bit in the summer and get ready to go over there.

"The Close and the Strokeplay are all played before the Leaving so we will miss them. But we have the European Individual and other events before we head over to the States in August when the college season starts. So we will be straight into tournaments in August, September and October."

While their Leaving Certificate results are no longer crucial, the daughters of schoolteachers Declan and Breda Maguire won't be taking it easy from now on.

"We did the Sats last September or so and those results were sent off. But they need our Leaving Cert results too just to have them. But it's more the American exams that they need. I suppose the pressure is off for the Leaving in a way but no, we will put every effort into doing as well as we can.  We’ve put in all the work after all."

The Leaving Certificate means that they will miss many of the big domestic events, such as the Irish Close or the Strokeplay.

"The British Amateur and the European Individual are the two events in Europe we are looking at playing right now before we head over in August.

"We won’t be sweating as much over the CAO as some of the rest might, which is lucky. So Duke is something to look forward to after the Leaving Cert and it gives us something to work towards and get our game in shape for August."

After that they will be getting their games in shape to help the Blue Devils win more NCAA titles. If they can do that, the move to the LPGA might be a no-brainer.