Saturday 16 December 2017

Sister act - Maguire in shadow of World No 1

Leona's success in amateur ranks inspires her equally talented twin - and caddy - Lisa

Leona Maguire with her twin sister and caddy Lisa discussing the putt during the final round of the women's golf during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leona Maguire with her twin sister and caddy Lisa discussing the putt during the final round of the women's golf during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Barry Lennon

Lisa Maguire's twin sister Leona is the world amateur No 1 golfer, got 15 more points in the Leaving Cert and made last year's Olympics.

What was Lisa doing last summer? Carrying Leona's bag.

Despite an inferior ranking (1,199) Lisa was first of the sisters to excel at golf, beating her sister and 800 other players to win an U-12 World Championships in 2006. Lisa put her own competitive ambitions aside last year when caddying for Leona during the Rio games and British Open. Although, Lisa admits she is still a little jealous of that top spot held by her sister who is younger by 15 minutes.

"I know Leona wants to stay there but it would spur us on (for me) to compete at that high level," she says.

"If she does well in a tournament I'd want to do well in the next. With Leona being No 1 in the world you couldn't really ask for someone better to compete with."

Does Leona listen to her caddy's advice? "The more events I do and the more rounds I do, she listens a little bit more to what to I have to say," Maguire says. "(As her sister) you can probably be a little more honest. In Rio I wasn't relying on a pay cheque at the end of the week. I'd no ulterior motive, I just wanted her to play good golf."

Leona is wise to consult her sister considering her strength on the greens and knowledge of her game.

The Cavan twins (22) took up golf together thanks to their dad Declan who persisted with them on Slieve Russell's par-three course. "We saw it as a tedious thing and not something that was much fun in the beginning," Lisa recalls. "But compared to most people, we stuck at it. We put in a lot of work in the first year or two." And it's paid off.

Had sister Leona stayed on the professional path, she could have been on this year's LPGA.

However, Lisa fully supports her sister's decision to pull out of the final round of qualification and instead stay at Duke University where both twins study. "When she asked me what I thought I said she couldn't make a bad decision. I'd of course love to see her stay here for another year with me," she said. "Mam and dad are both teachers, they've always been big on education growing up. And it's no harm to have a college degree in your back pocket as the world of professional sport can be unpredictable. I'd have probably done the same."

Their North Carolina college wooed the Ballyconnell duo when they were still attending Loreto College in Cavan in between lighting up European underage championships.


Although getting into Duke, which has produced ten Nobel prize winners, is no easy task. The Maguires had to produce every Christmas and Summer exam from secondary school, Junior and Leaving Certs before sitting the American entry exams, the SATs.

Both live together on campus and are a five-minute walk away from Duke's 18-hole course - a major attraction for the Maguires.

"However, free time is in short supply as the two psychology students can expect to anything between 25 to 40 hours of lectures a week alongside golf.

"After (class) it's golf for the entire afternoon. We've work-outs four times a week and practice every day bar Sunday." In the little downtime they do have, Lisa and Leona attend college basketball games in the campus' 9,000-seater indoor arena (the college has won five NCAA championships).

Despite the American drinking age of 21 and dry campus rules for first years, students still indulge. "For the most part people would (obey the rules). Obviously college students are college students at the same time," Lisa says.

While Leona may have considered an early exit, Lisa pledges to finish her studies next year. "Afterwards we'll see, either stay and pursue something here or maybe at home. There's a couple of options but I must first figure out what's the right one at the right time."

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