Leona Maguire briefly upstaged the top college basketball players from Duke and Notre Dame earlier this week when she received the Mark H. McCormack Medal for the third straight year.
Awarded to the leading women’s golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, the Co Cavan star (23) was presented with her award by Mike Davis, Executive Director and CEO of the USGA at halftime at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
The entire Duke women's team, including Leona's twin sister Lisa, was also honoured for winning the 2017 ACC Women’s Golf Championship.
Leona won the individual title that week in a season that also brought her the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship.
While she finished joint runner-up in the 2017 NCAA Championship individual standings, her great regret was not winning the NCAA team title with Duke and she hopes to put that right in her final collegiate season.
“My goal is to win a National Championship with my team,” she said this week.
She has a card for the second tier Symetra Tour but can also get a maximum of six LPGA invitations.
“Leona is ready to succeed as a professional,” Duke women’s golf head coach Dan Brooks told the Symetra Tour's Zach Sepanik.
“She already picks and chooses wisely — how she practices, how she lives, who she spends time with. I’ve never felt more confident in anyone I’ve coached."
Olivia targets second NCAAs with Sun Devils
Leona's international teammate Olivia Mehaffey helped Arizona State University win the NCAA team title last year and has no plans to give up the trophy.
Despite opting to defend the title with the minimum five-strong roster after Monica Vaughn and Linnea Strom turned professional, Olivia is up for it after clinching the winning points for the Sun Devils in both the semi-finals and final as a freshman.
“We’re all really mentally tough,” Mehaffey told Arizonasports.com. “We’re a gritty team. I think that having five players with the team we have isn’t a problem. We’re all aware of it, and we know that we all have to step up.”
Targeting a second NCAA win, she added: “Our slogan this year is ‘Keep Dreaming.’ There’s no reason why we can’t repeat what happened last year, especially if we get into the top eight at nationals,” Mehaffey said, adding that once match play begins in the quarterfinals, anything can happen.
“There was a lot of hype about our team, and now we don’t have as much pressure. I think people have written us off already, but I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t win a national championship again this year.”
Mehaffey kicked off the year well, carding a 68 (the best score of the day by five shots) to help ASU beat the Univesity of Denver by one stroke in a warm-up for the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California from February 11-13.
She will be reunited there with Leona and Lisa as the Blue Devils make their first start since they won the Landfall Tradition last October.