Tuesday 27 September 2016

High-flying Maguire enters reckoning for Rio Olympics

Brian Keogh

Published 07/07/2015 | 02:30

Leona Maquire has emerged as a potential Olympian for Irish team boss Paul McGinley following her heroic second-place finish in the Ladies British Masters on Sunday
Leona Maquire has emerged as a potential Olympian for Irish team boss Paul McGinley following her heroic second-place finish in the Ladies British Masters on Sunday

Leona Maguire has emerged as a potential Olympian for Irish team boss Paul McGinley following her heroic second-place finish in the Ladies British Masters on Sunday.

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While the 20-year old plans to remain amateur return to Duke University in the US in September, she picked up world ranking points for her incredible performance at The Oxfordshire and is now ranked 336th in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

Leona is already No 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings but the 60-strong field for next year's Olympics will be chosen from the Olympic Golf Ranking, which is based on the Rolex standings, and she is now a contender.

"I don't really understand the Rolex Rankings but I haven't spoken to Paul about it at all," she said of the Rio de Janeiro games.

"The focus is on the European Ladies' Team Championship in Denmark this week. 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 go back to Duke. We will just take it as it comes."

Ireland's Olympic team for the women's event currently comprises only world No 121 Stephanie Meadow though Galway-born Irish-American Alison Walshe, who is 161st in the world and close to qualifying.

However, Leona can win more world-ranking points over the next 12 months and, while she is now in Denmark leading Ireland's bid for a first European Ladies Amateur Team Championship title for 32 years, she plans to try and pre-qualify for the Ricoh Women's British Open next Monday.

She also revealed before jetting out to Denmark that she has been handed an invitation for another women's Major, the Evian Championship, which is played in France from September 10-13.

While she trails Meadow and Walshe, Leona is already more than 300 places ahead of Ladies European Tour player Rebecca Codd, who is 661st in the Rolex Rankings. The 60-strong field for Rio will be filled from the Olympic Golf Ranking with the International Golf Federation calculating that they will have to go down to around 250th in the world to fill the field.

A minimum 40-event divisor will be used to calculate Maguire's points average, which will dilute any points she wins between now and qualifying deadline of July 11, 2016.

But if she continues to produce big performances, especially in Majors, she may become a factor in the Olympics equation, four years earlier than scheduled, especially if she turns professional early.

As for Ireland's European Team Championship bid, she insisted she'll be 100 per cent ready for the start of the action today.

"I'm good to go," Leona said on Sunday night. "Resting rather than playing in the Irish Close in Rosapenna two weeks ago was obviously the best decision.

"I played well in the Vagliano Trophy at Malone last week and again this week so I feel I should be good to go."

Irish Independent

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