Leona Maguire Is First Irish Golfer To Win The LPGA
Leona Maguire has made history as the first Irish woman to win on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour.
Maguire edged out American Lexi Thompson, closing with a 5-under 67 for a three-stroke victory in the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony in February.
Speaking shortly after her victory, Maguire described the events as “a bit surreal.”
“It’s been 17 years in the making, and you kind of wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” she continued in the press interview. “Just really proud of how I played all week, especially today. Dermot (Byrne) was incredible on the bag. … Probably more relief now than anything else.”
The Co. Cavan native has been breaking records throughout both her amateur and professional careers. The 27-year-old holds the record for the lowest ever score in the final round of a major, by both male and female. With a score of 61, she also has the joint lowest score in the history of the sport’s major grand slam tournaments.
Before turning professional in 2018, Maguire was ranked number 1 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking for a record of 135 weeks in total.
Last year, Maguire became the first ever Irish woman to play in the Solheim Cup and broke the all-time rookie points record with a total of 4.5 points. This achievement, the first ever in the Solheim Cup or the Ryder Cup, helped the European team secure a 15-13 win.
Growing up Maguire’s main competition came from her twin sister Lisa, who retired from professional golf in 2019. Both sisters attended Duke University in North Carolina and competed at a collegiate level before turning professional and signing to singer Niall Horan’s golf management company Modest!.
Horan joined big names from the Irish golfing community in congratulating Maguire on her historic win.
The Mullingar singer tweeted “Yesssssssss!!! First Irish woman to win on @LPGA. Couldn’t be prouder of you Leona. Incredible performance.”
Padraig Harrington also took to social media to celebrate the victory of his fellow Irish golfer. “Delighted for @leona_maguire, nobody deserves it more. Years of hard work and pressure have gone into this win. Leona is trailblazing a way for all Irish golf. Delighted for Dermot Byrne on the bag too.”
Shane Lowry praised both Maguire and Byrne, his former caddie, on the momentous feat. “I am delighted for Leona and also delighted for Dermot, but what a performance from Leona. “She was world number one-ranked amateur for three years and to be the first Irish-born woman to win on the LPGA Tour is outstanding, and I’m so happy for her, said Lowry, after he placed 14th at the Saudi International.
Lowry described Maguire’s achievement as “another huge lift for women’s golf in Ireland.”
Seamus Power revealed to Irish Golfer that he had been in contact with Maguire after her win. The Waterford golfer went on to say, “I’m not surprised. It’s incredible for her to be the first LPGA winner from Ireland. I have nothing but good things to say about her.”
President Michael D. Higgins joined the online praise, tweeting, “Congratulations to @leona_maguire for her historic achievement in becoming the first Irish @LPGA Tour winner at the Drive On Championship. Another fantastic Irish sportswoman leading the way internationally.”
Former Galway Rugby Players Take On Trans-Atlantic Row
Two former rugby players will embark on a record-breaking journey across the Atlantic in May.
Browne has previously completed a solo Atlantic row in 2018, totaling 62 days, six hours and 25 minutes at sea. Hoping to recreate his adventure, Browne began to plan a trans- Atlantic row but this time he wanted company.
“I just loved my last experience, it was everything I wanted and so much more so I knew I’d do another one and I thought wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to row into your own town and I didn’t want to do another solo one,” he told the Irish Independent.
So, Browne thought of Farrell. After a work accident left Farrell paralyzed from the waist down, he became determined to walk again and within just two years he completed a 206km trek from Galway to Dublin.
The pair plan on rowing for 24 hours a day by taking shifts and sleeping in intervals. They will use filtered seawater and solar powered equipment to boil their freeze-dried rations during the 4937.47km journey.
The pair are paying for the expedition through an online crowdfunding page. For more details go to: https://www.projectempower.ie/
Damian Browne and Fergus Farrell, who met while playing for Galwegians RFC, will row for 55 days from New York to Galway.
Doctor On Team Ireland Makes History At Winter Olympics
Elsa Desmond, the first ever member of Team Ireland to compete in Luge, finished without a medal but returned to her job as a doctor in the U.K. full of pride in her historic performance and rightfully so.
Desmond, who was seen beaming through her green Team Ireland visor, spoke to ABC News about what becoming an Olympian meant to her.
“As the founder of the modern Olympics said, ‘It’s not about who wins, it’s about the fight to get there,’” Desmond said. “And this has been my fight. I’ve given everything to get here. And I think everyone has their own story, everyone has their own journey, everyone makes sacrifices in different ways and has different battles.”
And Desmond’s fight has been an inspiring one. Qualifying to represent the Emerald Isle through her grandparents, Desmond did not let the minor detail that Ireland did not have a luge federation stop her Olympic dream. And in a true “fight to get there” spirit she started a federation herself.
The essential worker balanced her work life and her Olympic dream with the help of her colleagues, now enthusiastic luge fans, at Southend University Hospital in the U.K.
While training, Desmond was taking online exams to finish her studies in various hotels. Other competitors in the sport would often be staying just next door. “I had to stick signs on my door saying, ‘Do not disturb, exam in progress’ in about six different languages,” Desmond told ABC News.
After finishing her premiere Olympic run on February 8th, Desmond set her sights on Milan 2026. In the meantime, she has already returned to her work saving lives.
Waterford Woman Sets Irish Freediving Record
Waterford City native Kathleen Macdonald has been ranked number one in Ireland for freediving, with a time of 6 minutes 12 seconds.
Kathleen began freediving, the sport of diving without use of a breathing apparatus, just 18 months ago and has already achieved 10 national records.
During Ireland’s first Covid lockdown, Kathleen’s mother who lives in Greece had a relapse of cancer and Kathleen flew there to be with her. It was there she reached out to One Breath Freediving in Athens in search of an outdoor, Covid-friendly sport. Kathleen had previously attended a one-day course in the Philippines in 2015.
No stranger to adventure, Kathleen has reached Mount Everest base camp, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and even accidentally reached the top of Mount Toubkal while on a “leisurely stroll” in the Atlas Mountains.
“I think I was always searching for something, but I never knew what it was,” said Kathleen, who works as a lawyer in Dublin. She has continued her training in Ireland’s capital at the pool where she had signed up for swimming lessons just before the pandemic.
“The irony isn’t lost on me, but it just shows it’s never too late to try something new,” she said. Speaking of her personal best time Kathy said, “those extra seconds after the 6 minutes really matter: I jumped from 2 minutes to 3 minutes to 4 and a half to 5 and a half in some months, but it is only after you reach the 6th minute you are really pushing your body and mind to its limits.”
Kathy explained that the bottom of the ocean has provided a haven for her mental health. “For me, it is mindfulness using one breath and you return to the surface calm and free, you have emptied your mind of any thoughts, lowered your heart rate to adapt underwater and trusted your body to allow you to go to depths where you wouldn’t normally think it’s possible to go to.”
Kathy is planning on entering freediving competitions in both Greece and the Bahamas this year. You can follow her journey here.♦