Lisa Maguire loves watching her twin sister Leona dominate in the amateur game but there's nothing like getting rewards for your own hard work and she was suitably thrilled to help Duke win the East Lake Cup earlier this week and take a giant step back towards the top again.
The County Cavan native has struggled with her game for a few years, falling to 1,131st in the World Amateur Golf Rankings from No 10 just five years ago.
She's been rebuilding her swing with the help of her college coach Dan Brooks and Black Bush's Shane O'Grady at home while US based Englishman Nick Bradley was also briefly involved.
Her joy was understandable after she clinched a crucial 1 up win as Duke beat Washington 3.5-1.5 to take the second annual East Lake Cup at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Wednesday. Scores
Lisa led for 10 of the first 14 holes against Eunwon Park before being taken back to all square with three to go
She got up and down for a winning par at the 16th to go one up, lost the 17th but then hit the 18th in regulation and two two putted from 60 feet for a winning par that put Duke 2-0 ahead and on the road to overall victory
“The season’s first two tournaments weren’t as good as we wanted them to be,” said Lisa. “So to finish with a win is a great way to end the [Fall] season and I think it was what we needed to give us the confidence to work even harder than we would have in the offseason to get some momentum going into the spring.
"Right now it is still very much a fight for me on the golf course. Every day I go out and promise myself that I am going to fight as hard as I can.
"Ultimately that ended up in a win so I was proud of myself in that respect. I was even more delighted to get a win for the team."
Lisa caddied for twin sister Leona at the Olympic Games and will be her No 1 cheerleader when she follows her progress at Stage III of the LPGA Tour's Qualifying School later this month.
"Leona is my best friend and hopefully she always will be," she told the Duke website. "We’ve been really close growing up and I wouldn’t change this college experience for the world.
"Going through this has been one of the best things ever and going through this experience. Being further away from home we have relied on each other. So it has been really cool to be a part of.”
As for her swing rebuilding journey, her college coach Dan Brooks and Leona spoke to Ryan Lavner at GolfChannel.com about how she has battled to get her game back to the level that brought her 16 top amateur titles and a top world amateur ranking before she arrived in the US two years ago.
“I was watching a game that August and September that isn’t going to be on the LPGA tour,” Brooks recalled Wednesday. “It’s not going there. It’s going to struggle on the Symetra Tour, maybe, and it’s going to fizzle out and she’s going to do something else. That’s what I’m watching.
“I could have squeezed a lot of good golf out of that in college, but she would have been at a dead end in four years.”
What followed was agonizing for both player and coach. While Leona earned NCAA player of the year honors in 2014-15, Lisa didn’t shoot in the 60s her entire freshman season, finishing no better than 40th in her last eight events. The low point came at the 2015 NCAA Championship, where she shot four consecutive rounds in the 80s and finished 83rd out of 84 players, at 51 over par.
“It’s been tough for me to watch her go through it,” Leona said, “but it’s been tougher for her to go through it herself. I try to be as supportive as I can and help her any way I can.”
....“It’s still very much a work in progress,” said Maguire, 21. “I’ve worked very hard the last two years to try and master it. It’s obviously not quite there, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot of progress.”
Said Brooks: “This is a big step in the right direction.”
When she rolled in the 3-footer to win, Maguire calmly tucked the ball into her pocket and shook hands with Park. Then the emotion poured out. Normally timid and reserved, she leaped into the arms of teammate Virginia Elena Carta. The smile on Brooks’ face was unmistakable.
“That’s the most I’ve ever involved myself with a player’s game in 32 years, this tournament,” he said.
It’s too early to tell, of course, but this encouraging result might help revive Maguire’s career after three years of frustration.
“I know if I can get through this swing change, I’ll be a better player than I was as a junior,” she said. “It’s just focusing on the future and what the possibilities could be when I do get it right.”