Bitter sweet as "proud" Leona Maguire ties for second in NCAAs
Leona Maguire. Picture: Tim Cowie

Leona Maguire. Picture: Tim Cowie

Leona Maguire's final round charge for the NCAA Individual title came up just one shot short as she finished second for the second time in three years at Rich Harvest Farms on Monday.

The world No 1 from Slieve Russell and Duke University went into the final round tied for sixth, four shots behind Wake Forest's Jennifer Kupcho in tough weather conditions more akin to Ireland than the US in May.

But while she closed with a two under 70 in tough, windy conditions in Sugar Grove, Illinois, the Co Cavan star finished tied for second with the overnight leader, one behind Arizona State's Monica Vaughn. 

"It's bitter-sweet, obviously," said Leona, who was also second in 2015 but hopes to win in her final college year next season. "I am very proud of the way I played. To finish second in a quality field like this is a great achievement but I'd like to be going home with the trophy tonight.

"To get that close twice now is a little tough to take but Monica played some great golf today and I really can't complain.

"It's another second place finish at an NCAA Championship, so I have one more year. Hopefully, we will come away one spot higher then."

Maguire set the clubhouse lead at two over 218 before Vaughn posted a one under 71 to overtake her with 217.

Overnight leader Kupcho still led by two shots heading to the 17th but she found water with her approach and made a triple bogey seven for a 74, slipping back to tied second with Leona on two-over par.

"I am just really proud of the way I played all week," Leona said. "It was a really tough golf course and very challenging conditions—definitely the hardest we have played all year and one of the hardest I have played in my college career. 

"I am just really proud of the way I battled out there. I hit some really good shots and made some really nice birdies and some really good saves.

"I'd like to have come away with the win but I did everything I could today to give myself that chance. Overall it was a really good test of golf. 

"You had to hit good tee shots, the rough was pretty thick and pretty penal and into the green you had to be pretty accurate and obviously hole some putts. It was pretty demanding of all aspects of your game. 

"I was pretty happy with how I managed the wind. It got really gusty at times. I kept fighting to the end and I knew it was a case of posting a number and waiting to see. I was happy with the way I did that.

“Definitely the past two days in the wind, I am very happy with how I played," said Leona, who followed an opening 77 in horrific conditions with rounds of 71 and 70. 

"There wasn't a whole lot I could do about the first day with the wind, rain and cold that we got. I am just glad that I stayed patient, kept giving myself chances and took advantage of as many of them as I could.”

Olivia Mehaffey (79-80-74) finished tied for 57th on 17-over 223 after a week marred by cold, wet and windy weather which forced officials to scrap Saturday's third round, reducing the event to 54 holes.

Arizona still qualified third of the eight colleges that made the matchplay quarter-finals behind Northwestern and Stanford and now face Florida (T5) with Ohio State, Southern California, Baylor and Kent State rounding out the qualifiers.

Duke missed out, finishing 16th with Lisa Maguire tied 116th individually after three 82s.

"We've had a great year," said Leona, who followed an opening 77 with a 71 before closing with a 70. "It wasn't the finish we were hoping for but everybody kept fighting until the end and had a great attitude and that's really all you can ask.

"We will put some good work in over the summer and winter and hopefully we will come back next year fighting."

As for her summer plans, which include next month's Irish Women's Close at Mullingar, the Ricoh Women's British Open and the European Amateur Team Championship, she said: "A lot of golf and some rest. I will go home now to Ireland and spend time with friends and family there. It should be fun."

NCAA DI Women's National Championship Par: 72 Yardage: 6343

Individual scores strokeplay

Detailed scores

1 Monica Vaughn (Arizona State) 74 72 71 217 +1
T2 Leona Maguire (Duke) 77 71 70 218 +2
T2 Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest) 74 70 74 218 +2
T57 Olivia Mehaffey (Arizona State) 79 80 74 233 +17
T116 Lisa Maguire (Duke) 82 82 82 246 +30

Team Scores

1 Northwestern 301 298 298 897 +33
2 Stanford 311 298 296 905 +41
3 Arizona State 311 309 289 909 +45
4 Ohio State 311 299 303 913 +49
T5 Southern California 315 303 296 914 +50
T5 Florida 320 302 292 914 +50
7 Baylor 311 300 306 917 +53
8 Kent State 303 304 312 919 +55
18 Duke 325 309 300 934 +70