Written by By Maret Stewart, CNN
She’s set to become a household name in the UK. But, interestingly, Irish LPGA star Leona Maguire is a newcomer to the golfing world.
At just 26, she is something of an unknown in Europe, where female golfers tend to rise to stardom while still in their teens. The Irish-born Casablanca-born golfer is not even the youngest member of this year’s European team, which will play in the biennial Solheim Cup in Sweden later this month.
Maguire is simply certain of one thing — she wants her talent to be appreciated internationally.
“When I was young, I was pretty sure that I wanted to play golf and make a career out of it,” she tells CNN Sport. “I didn’t want to play on the European Tour. I just wanted to play good golf to get over here and be accepted.”
‘I can compete with the best’
Maguire began playing golf aged three and, after being told by her parents that she had big hands, she started to develop special grips. But it wasn’t until she saw a competitive win by Singapore’s Jessie Yeh, aged seven, that Maguire realized she was playing against a female when others might have been playing against a male.
“When I started to watch the (European) Tour, there were more girl athletes playing, and I just thought, ‘If they’re playing the way I’m playing, they should be given this platform as well,'” she says.
“You don’t have to think you’re better than others because there are so many things I’m doing better than these girls. Just for that, I should be given the opportunity.”
In 2003, she turned professional at the age of 17 and, in recent years, Maguire has proved herself the equal of some of the game’s best players.
She has been crowned the European Ladies’ amateur champion three times and three-time Irish women’s amateur champion. Last year, she took her breakthrough season to another level when she won the Irish Open and secured a coveted spot on the Solheim Cup team in a hotly contested battle with Sophie Gustafson of Sweden.
Maguire will play alongside Gustafson, along with German star Caroline Masson, and either Bae-Jung Lee of South Korea or British players Charley Hull and Laura Davies when they battle for the Solheim Cup in Sweden in September.
Should they win, they will become just the third women’s team in history to retain the cup in the event’s 43-year history.