Meadow and Maguire ready to inspire next generation
Stephanie Meadow. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Stephanie Meadow. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Stars Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire want to inspire the next generation of Irish girls when they tee it up on the LPGA Tour next season.

Meadow (27) dramatically birdied her last two holes in the Volunteers of America Classic to keep her card, revealing she had to endure a nerve-racking wait for confirmation that she'd made the crucial top 100 money winners.

"I was sick to my stomach for two hours afterwards until I knew for sure," Meadow said of her tie for sixth in Dallas and her last gasp leap from 112th to 99th thanks to a brilliant birdie at the last.

"I just knew I had to make that putt on 18 or I was going back to Q-School. It was a thrill to know I could do it when I really needed it."

Maguire (24) completed an impressive season to join Meadow in the big leagues with two wins and seven top-10s securing the seventh of ten cards awarded via the Symetra Tour money list.

She paid tribute to her parents, Declan and Breda, for the sacrifices they made as well as her coach Shane O'Grady and her backroom team and expressed delight that she'll be joining former amateur teammate Meadow on the world's top female professional tour just 18 months after turning professional.

"I'm happy for Steph," the Ballyconnell star said. "It must be a huge relief for her to keep her card.

"It will be great for young girls to see two Irish female golfers on the LPGA tour because we didn't have any Irish female golfers to look up to on the LPGA when we younger."

Leona Maguire

Leona Maguire

Fellow 20x20 ambassador Meadow added: "The 20x20 campaign has helped change the perception of women's golf and the visibility Leona and I have will allow young girls to look at us and not wonder who we are.

"It's really remarkable to be able to do that."

It was a remarkable year for Maguire, who won $92,517 from 16 Symetra Tour starts, regards her victories in the Windsor Golf Classic and the Symetra Classic in May as the highlights of her year.

But she knows she must now prepare for a bigger challenge in 2020 on the LPGA Tour and will undoubtedly look to her most recent off-season as a template for success.

“I had a really good off season and prep down in Australia which helped me hit the ground running on the Symetra Tour,” she said yesterday between a string of interviews with US media outlets. “I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up like last year and I felt more comfortable.

“I’m guessing that there will be a period of adjustment just like there was going from college to Symetra but I’m excited for the challenge. There will be lots of travel and new courses to adapt to.

“I’d like to get stronger in the gym during the off-season and just sharpen up all aspects of my game. And I’m excited to play with the best players every week and also to see new parts of the world.”

Little will change behind the scenes and the former world amateur number one will stick with the formula that has helped her get this far.

Stephanie Meadow. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Stephanie Meadow. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“There have been many people throughout all my stages that have supported me throughout my amateur and pro career that have made this possible,” she said. “Starting first with my parents, they have sacrificed so much in order to get me to this point.

“Shane [O’Grady] has been a huge help and knows my game inside and out, it was a big help having him out in Orlando two weeks ago to fine tune everything.

“The team at Modest! have been great in making the transition to the pro game as smooth as possible so I can just focus on my golf.

“Duke played a key role in elevating my game to the next level and really helped prepare me for life on tour in the USA. Physio Julianne and strength coach Timmy, who have helped keep me strong and healthy all season long.”

Lowry has top-10 chance in Rome

As Ireland's Challenge Tour stars head for Headfort for this week's Stone Irish Challenge, Open champion Shane Lowry will be looking to continue a life-changing season at the $7 million Italian Open.

The world number 18 is joined at Olgiata Golf Club by Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne knowing he needs a top-three finish to retake top spot in the Race to Dubai from Spanish Open winner Jon Rahm.

With 44 world ranking points to the winner compared to just 24 for the Houston Open, where Seamus Power joins defending champion Ian Poulter, a big week could launch Lowry into the world's top-10 for the first time.

For Dunne, it’s an opportunity to arrest an alarming drop in form that has seen in him miss nine of 11 cuts since he tied for fourth in the Made in Denmark more than four months ago.

Dunne is 111th in the Race to Dubai and while only the top 110 keep their cards, he knows the cut off line will drop to 119th at least as non-exempt players are removed from the rankings.

He received a projection from the European Tour weeks ago that predicted that he has already passed the Race to Dubai points threshold required to keep his card and need not play again to keep his playing rights.

He still has time to qualify for the Turkish Airlines Open next month but needs to big results to make a move.

His short game remains strong statistically — he’s sixth for strokes gained putting — but his driving accuracy and approach play has been a handicap.

There will be precious Ryder Cup points on offer in Rome and talk of the 2022 Ryder Cup at nearby Marco Simone Golf and Country Club with the dates confirmed yesterday for September 30 to October 2.

Renovation of the golf course continues with nine holes now growing in and phase two of the construction project scheduled for completion by next May.