Maguires to give pros glimpse of future
YOUNG and younger -- but these girls are good.
I'm talking about Leona Maguire and Alexis 'Lexi' Thompson, two of the teenage talents participating in the €400,000 Irish Ladies Open, supported by Failte Ireland, which starts today at Killeen Castle in Dunsany, Co Meath.
The two 16-year-olds will play together along with American Solheim Cup player and Major winner Stacy Lewis.
They start on the 10th tee at 9.0 and while it's all about playing your individual game, amateur Leona and professional Lexi will no doubt have an extra bit of pride on the line today.
The last occasion on which they played in the same group was in the 2010 Curtis Cup, with Thompson winning in foursomes and fourballs.
This group is sure to attract a big gallery, as will Leona's twin Lisa, the European Amateur Individual champion, who plays alongside Becky Brewerton of Wales and Azahara Munoz Guijarro of Spain at 1.20 off the first tee.
The public fascination with the Maguire twins, who have prepared diligently for the event, may put a few noses out of joint among the established big names.
However, box office receipts are enhanced by the chance to see the stars of the future, and the twins, along with professional debutante Danielle McVeigh, are the fresh new faces of Irish women's golf.
Lisa belied her years as she summed up the challenge for the 54-hole tournament, which ends on Sunday.
"They seem to have lengthened some of the holes out there, so it might play a wee bit tougher than last year.
"You need to hit fairways and know where you're going to be on the greens, so you have to have a good strategy going out and stick to it," she said.
McVeigh, who turned pro earlier this week, said: "It's always good to start in front of a home crowd and I know a lot of people are on my side.
"That will ease the transition from amateur to professional. I know a lot of the other Irish girls here, so hopefully I'll benefit from their advice to get to the next level."
The other Irish competitors are Rebecca Codd, Martina Gillen, Tara Delaney and Hazel Kavanagh.
Codd is the highest-ranked Irish player in the LET's Henderson Money List at 63rd, but will hope to match last year, when a top 20 in the Ladies Irish Open boosted her morale and resulted in improved performances for the rest of the 2010 season.
At the top end of the scale, the US contingent, headed by the irrepressible Christina Kim, Lewis and Vicky Hurst, will expect to be in contention.
Kim laughed her way around the Pro-Am yesterday and knows how to combine her golf with having fun.
"When you have got an office like this, you have to enjoy yourself as well and that's one reason why I love coming to Ireland. People are so hospitable. It is so much fun out here," Kim said.
Sophie Gustafson of Sweden, last year's winner and four-times champion, is back to defend her title against a field speckled with 2011 LET tournament winners including England's Melissa Reid, Christel Boeljon of Holland, Brewerton, and Diana Luna.
Top prize money for the winner is €60,000, with €40,600 for second and €28,000 for third.
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