Leona a hit despite near miss: "I’m very proud of the way I played all day"

Runner up Leona Maguire is presented with a bottle of pink Champagne by Ivan Khodabakhsh. CEO, Ladies European Tour. Picture: Ladies European Tour.

World amateur No 1 Leona Maguire was looking on the bright side despite agonisingly missing out on a chance to force a playoff for the ISPS HANDA Ladies British Masters at the Buckinghamshire.

Having received an invitation for one of the biggest events on the Ladies European Tour, the 20-year old Duke University star almost sounded like she felt she was the player to beat when she told the Ladies European Tour in the build up: “I’ve nothing to lose this week so I’ll see how I play and how the best players match up against me.”

Whatever she meant to say, only one player in the elite field could beat the biggest golfing sensation to emerge from Ireland since Rory McIlroy. 

And while she said last week that she’s keen to continue at Duke University, where she was the outstanding collegiate player in the US in her freshman year, the pressure to turn professional before the end of her four-year degree may prove irresistible.

Four under par for the day and needing a two to win and a par-three at the 173-yard 18th to match clubhouse leader Beth Allen of the United States on 12 under par, she found herself between clubs and confused by the swirling wind.

After a long debate with her father Declan, who was caddying, her four-iron flew through the green into the back bunker and she failed to get up and down for a par that would have forced sudden-death

Leona Maguire blasts out at the 18th. Picture: Ladies European Tour.

Leona Maguire blasts out at the 18th. Picture: Ladies European Tour.

“It was a great week and if someone offered me second place at the start of the week, I’d have grabbed with with both hands," Leona said. "It was a great opportunity to play against the best European Tour pros in a pretty strong field, so I am delighted with my finish.

“it’s a pity about the way it ended but I am happy with the week. I didn’t make many bogeys all week—no more than one or two each day—and if a few putts had dropped here or there it would have made a big difference.

“On a golf course like that it is still pretty good shooting in that field and the wind got up a lot the last two days, which made it tricky.”

Tied for fourth, four shots behind Germany’s Caroline Masson starting the day, Leona birdied the second and third to get to 10 under and then followed a bogey at the fifth with a birdie at the eighth to turn for home within two shots of Allen, who stormed to the turn in 31 to snatch the lead.

As the American played the back nine in level par to set the target at 12 under thanks to a closing five under 67, Leona birdied the 11th and bounced back from a bogey at the 13th with a birdie four at the next to remain in touch.

Birdie chances slipped by from eight feet at the 15th and 12 feet at the 16th but she got up and down from the back bunker at the driveable 17th for birdie to match Allen on 12 under, only to drop that crucial shot at the last.

“I knew it was tight coming up 18 and we didn’t really know where the wind was coming from,” Leona said after a 69 left her a shot behind the popular American Allen, who claimed her maiden title after 10 years a professional and a cheque for €75,000.

Leona Maguire in action in the final round. Picture: Ladies European Tour.

“I thought it was downwind, dad thought it was into the wind and it was probably the wrong club off the tee but I’m very proud of the way I played all day. Going out at the start of the day I would have taken that so it’s been a great day.”

Insisting she “definitely” had more belief in her ability after a quite wonderful performance, she added: “I didn’t even play at my best this week. 

"There were glimpses of it today, so it’s definitely a huge confidence booster going into the rest of the season that I can play with the best out here.”

“I wasn’t that nervous and I hit a great shot it was just the wrong club,” said Leona, who missed out on a cheque for €€50,750 as she’s an amateur but picked Rolex World Ranking points.

“We knew it was off the left. He thought it was hurting, I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to hit five, he wanted me to hit four. It was in between. He was only trying to help and its one of those awkward yardages.”

Leona’s next task is to join her Irish team mates in Denmark today for the European Ladies’ Team Championship, which begins at Helsingør Golf Club tomorrow.

Scheduled to go back to Duke University in September, she had no plans to turn professional though she revealed that she’s received an invitation for The Evian Championship from September 10-13, one of the five LPGA Majors, and may try to pre-qualify for the Ricoh Women’s British Open next Monday.

Winner Beth Allen celebrates. Picture: Ladies European Tour.

“The focus is on the European Ladies’ Team Championship in Denmark this week,” she added. “As for turning professional, as I said before my focus is on the summer and the plan is still to go back to college in the autumn. 

“If the results keep going my way it’s a big stepping stone to bigger and better things. But my plan is to back to Duke. We will just take it as it comes.”

Like some of her Duke University team mates they watched the action on a laptop from Denmark but if they saw Leona’s disappointment, they also witnessed the greatest day of Allen’s career as she finally picked up her maiden win.

The 33-year old San Diego native shot to fame in 2011 when she donated a kidney to her brother Dan, who had been in a dialysis machine for the previous five years having undergone his first transplant in 1999.

In another twist, Allen’s caddie was five-time LPGA Tour winner and Solheim Cup star Sophie Gustafson and she admitted her help was crucial.

"I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen so I’m really, really happy," Allen said. "I’ve waited a long time for this and I wanted it so, so bad, I’m ecstatic.”

She had finished second three times on the LET but her secret weapon was her new caddie, Sophie Gustafson. The 26-time tournament winner who has represented Europe eight times in The Solheim Cup and this year will be one of Carin Koch’s vice captains at St Leon-Rot in Germany, was on the bag advising Allen as she plotted her way around the Buckinghamshire layout. 

“Honestly, I feel like I just showed up and I didn’t have a lot of expectations because I finished second here in 2012 and haven’t made a cut since,” said Allen. “I thought, well, I’ll do my best and enjoy it and today. I got off to a really good start and thought maybe this can happen and Sophie kept me grounded. I ended up getting it done, so I’m really happy!

“Sophie and I are friends and she offered to help and definitely did. She definitely saved me some shots out there and I am so so grateful.”

The 41-year old Swede, who left the LPGA to play the LET full-time last year, has been struggling with her game and opted to caddie for four weeks, starting at the Buckinghamshire. 

“I don’t know how long I’m going to do it but I’m sure looking forward to it now,” Gustafson told Golf Digest. “It’s a weird feeling cause I also feel I have more to give… I just know that what I’m doing isn’t working and I want something to give.”

Final scores

276 Beth Allen (USA) 71 70 68 67

277 Leona Maguire (IRL) 69 70 69 69

278 Nontaya Srisawang (THA) 67 70 69 72

279 Nicole Broch Larsen (DEN) 69 69 71 70, Rebecca Artis (AUS) 70 72 66 71, Caroline Masson (GER) 70 67 67 75

280 Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) 72 69 69 70, Laura Davies (ENG) 71 70 72 67, Trish Johnson (ENG) 68 71 75 66, Noora Tamminen (FIN) 73 71 67 69

281 Ssu-Chia Cheng (TPE) 68 70 70 73, Pamela Pretswell (SCO) 69 70 74 68

282 Becky Morgan (WAL) 69 71 70 72, Melissa Reid (ENG) 71 70 71 70, Ashleigh Simon (RSA) 67 72 72 71, Diana Luna (ITA) 68 73 70 71, Louise Friberg (SWE) 71 69 70 72, Gwladys Nocera (FRA) 69 72 74 67

283 Georgia Hall (ENG) 74 70 71 68, Holly Clyburn (ENG) 70 71 70 72, Alex Peters (ENG) 70 63 77 73

284 Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) 70 71 75 68

285 Sophie Giquel-bettan (FRA) 66 70 75 74, Johanna Bjork (SWE) 73 72 71 69

286 Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) 69 70 67 80, Isabella Ramsay (SWE) 69 74 74 69, Isabelle Boineau (FRA) 71 71 73 71, Felicity Johnson (ENG) 69 75 71 71

287 Carly Booth (SCO) 71 70 72 74, Florentyna Parker (ENG) 70 75 72 70, Rebecca Hudson (ENG) 70 74 73 70, Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) 69 73 73 72

288 Sarah Kemp (AUS) 72 70 71 75, Laura Murray (SCO) 77 69 75 67, Emily Kristine Pedersen (DNK) 68 69 76 75, Amy Boulden (WAL) 72 74 69 73

289 Charlotte Ellis (ENG) 69 75 73 72, Nanna Koerstz Madsen (DNK) 71 69 73 76, Marta Sanz Barrio (ESP) 68 72 73 76, Danielle Montgomery (ENG) 72 73 72 72

290 Liz Young (ENG) 75 70 72 73, Charley Hull (ENG) 68 67 77 78, Marion Ricordeau (FRA) 72 72 79 67, Csilla Lajtai-rozsa (HUN) 72 71 74 73, Sophie Walker (ENG) 70 75 75 70, Alexandra Vilatte (FRA) 72 72 77 69, Maria Palacios Siegenthaler (ESP) 71 72 75 72

291 Caroline Martens (NOR) 72 71 79 69, Heather Macrae (SCO) 70 76 70 75, Christine Wolf (AUT) 76 69 74 72, Maria Balikoeva (RUS) 73 73 76 69, Ann-Kathrin Lindner (GER) 70 75 71 75, Hannah Burke (ENG) 74 70 73 74, Caroline Afonso (FRA) 72 74 72 73

293 Georgina Simpson (ENG) 75 70 77 71, Lina Boqvist (SWE) 72 71 77 73

294 Stefania Croce (ITA) 74 72 76 72, Louise Stahle (SWE) 73 72 77 72, Sarah Attwood (ENG) 70 76 72 76, Leigh Whittaker (GER) 71 75 75 73, Klara Spilkova (CZE) 70 76 73 75

296 Minea Blomqvist (FIN) 70 69 77 80, India Clyburn (ENG) 72 74 73 77, Holly Aitchison (ENG) 75 71 75 75

298 Sophia Popov (GER) 73 73 72 80

299 Margherita Rigon (ITA) 74 72 73 80, Laurette Maritz (RSA) 75 71 76 77

301 Maha Haddioui (MAR) 73 72 79 77

304 Rachel Goodall (ENG) 73 73 82 76

306 Josephine Janson (SWE) 67 78 78 83