Sport Golf

Saturday 22 October 2016

Maguire leads Curtis Cup charge

Published 11/06/2016 | 02:30

Leona Maguire watches her tee shot on the eighth hole at Dun Laoghaire Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Leona Maguire watches her tee shot on the eighth hole at Dun Laoghaire Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

If this is to be Leona Maguire's final appearance in the Curtis Cup, the Irish sensation is doing her best to help wrestle back the trophy that Great Britain and Ireland last won back in 2012.

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The Cavan native is destined for big things; she is expected to turn professional in the not too distant future, and based on yesterday's evidence in Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, Maguire is ready to take that next step.

When talking about a supremely talented 21-year old, the inclination is to temper the expectation but when, as in Maguire's case, you have blazed a trail since the age of 11, you learn to cope with the pressure.

Maguire, who is second in the world amateur rankings, picked up two from two points in her foursomes and fourball matches and the sizeable crowd who flocked to the picturesque setting at the foot of the Wicklow mountains were treated to an exhibition of ball striking, not only from the former world No 1 but indeed from both teams.

This is only the second time that Ireland has hosted the Curtis Cup and while the nerves were evident at times, yesterday's play, although very slow in the afternoon, was a fine advertisement for women's golf as USA clawed their way back into the match to leave it all square at 3-3.

Buoyed by her morning foursomes win after which GB&I were 2-1 to the good, Maguire was paired with Bronte Law for the afternoon fourball and they formed a formidable partnership that outclassed their American opponents.

GB&I went in front as early as the first hole, courtesy of a Maguire birdie, and it was a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

With a two-shot advantage on the seventh hole, Maguire and Sierra Brooks both hit tremendous shots from the fairway bunker. The American coolly slotted her birdie putt to spark a huge roar and fist-pumps galore from the travelling support, but they were soon silenced when Maguire followed her in for a four.

It was brilliant drama and from there USA looked deflated. Their uphill task wasn't helped by Maguire picking up yet another birdie on 12.

The American pair's fate was sealed on 15 as they fell to a 4&3 defeat but elsewhere on the course, the momentum had shifted in the visitors' favour.

World No 1 Hannah O'Sullivan whose grandparents hail from Limerick and Tipperary, bounced back from her foursomes defeat to claim a precious fourball victory on the last, over a GB&I pairing that included Royal County Down's Olivia Mehaffey.

After a perfect drive, Mehaffey hit her approach to 10 feet but O'Sullivan showed why she is the top-ranked player in the world when she rolled in a 25-foot birdie to dash GB&I's hopes of salvaging half a point.

In the final fourball, USA led from start to finish to level the match heading into today.

All three Irish players were sent out in the morning foursomes and after 18-year old Mehaffey played her part in a 2&1 victory in the opening match, Maguire and Charlotte Thomas fought back from two down to seal an impressive win on 16.

USA missed a gilt-edged chance to bring the deficit back to two as their birdie attempt lipped out on 15 and Maguire held her nerve to rattle in the crucial par putt for a half.

Skerries native Maria Dunne and her partner Meghan MacLaren will have been bitterly disappointed that they let slip a three-hole advantage after eight to lose with a sloppy bogey on the last.

Dunne (33), the 'veteran' of the tournament split the fairway with her drive on 18 but MacLaren pushed her approach shot and GB&I never recovered as a par was good enough for the USA to register their first point of the day that sparked the comeback.

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