Leona looking in the mirror during enforced golfing limbo

Leona Maguire: "“You have to be prepared as best you can. It’s not ideal, but if we’re ready to go in May, I’ll be ready to play." Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
By Simon Lewis

Like housebound, competition-starved athletes the world over, Leona Maguire is in a strange kind of limbo right now. 

The LPGA Tour rookie and Irish Olympian is confined to her Cavan home, grateful to be safe from the Covid-19 hotspots of the world her professional golfing career would normally take her but also caught in what seems like that post-Christmas lull while trying to stay sharp and focused for when sport does return to her life and she can resume a campaign that saw her claim her first top-10 finish in the big leagues, a tie for fourth at the Vic Open in Australia before the global sporting shutdown.

“It’s been a strange few weeks,” Maguire, 25, said yesterday during a media conference call. 

“I came back from Australia. I was supposed to go straight to China but that got cancelled when we were down in Australia. So I decided to come home for two weeks to see Shane (O’Grady), my coach, and catch up with everybody here.

“I’d been on the road for 10 weeks, it suited to be home for two weeks, then the US travel ban came in and I was hemming and hawing about going back to the States or not. 

"I was supposed to go on a six-event run in seven weeks, but then it came through that those three (LPGA) events had been cancelled, and then the other three. 

"I was talking to a lot of doctors and people on tour deciding if I’d head back to the States or not, the consensus was to stay put where I was in Cavan.

The same advice came from Niall Horan, the boss of her management company Modest! Golf.

“I was talking to him. When I was getting ready to head back to the States, he was in LA so I was chatting to him about what the situation was there. 

"We were supposed to play events in Arizona, San Diego, and Palm Springs which weren’t all that far from where he was. So he was getting ready to leave, he was one of the ones who advised me to stay put in Ireland.

“He was heading home to London, California was one of the areas that was worst hit. He’s kind of in the same boat as we are right now. 

"He was getting ready to tour with a new album, concerts all over the world. Everything’s on hold for him now too. He’s a big golfer so he’s missing being out on the course.”

Not as much as Maguire, who is making the best of it, working on the aspects of her game she can within the physical limitations imposed by the government’s restrictions and for the rest of time trying to stay active in ways conducive to good mental well-being.

“Obviously living in the countryside here, I was able to keep playing in the Slieve Russell until the ban came in and that. Set up here at home now, I’ve got some gym equipment here, putting inside and a field out the back where I can hit balls up to about a seven iron. So hit them, go collect them, and hit them again. 

So yeah, just trying to make the most of it really and also get a bit of rest in as well. I suppose when this passes and it starts up again, there will be a lot of golfing in a short amount of time. Be ready for that.

The trouble is, nobody knows exactly when that will be. 

"The next tournament still in play starts in Florida on May 14 and Maguire must assume that is her target to return to competition.

“It’s just a guessing game for all of us right now. 

"The LPGA has told us they’re going to evaluate three events at a time. I suppose we have to practice and train as if that Florida event is still going ahead. 

"Obviously the US is the epicentre of the virus right now so you don’t know what is going to happen over there.

“You have to be prepared as best you can. It’s not ideal, but if we’re ready to go in May, I’ll be ready to play. 

It’s just some extra time to fine-tune things and get some extra work in the gym. Just treating it like a second off-season, even though this off-season is longer than the first one.

“I can’t do any work or see the ball fly with any long clubs. It’s a lot of technique, doing some mirror work, doing some drills like that and sending the videos back and forth to my coach, doing some putting work. 

"Obviously I can’t get on the course right now. It’s just making the most of it, everybody is really in the same boat.

“I don’t think there is many with a significant advantage right now. 

"There are not too many with what I suppose Padraig Harrington has in his back garden, apart from him, there are not too many us who can carry on as normal right now.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before so golf just has to take a back seat for now. There are bigger things going on in the world. 

The LPGA will be there when all of this is over, the important thing now is staying safe and healthy as much as we’d all love to be out playing.”

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