Freshman Leona Maguire stakes her claim as finest golfer in NCAA

Although basketball is the first sport that is associated when fans hear the words “Duke Blue Devils”, the university has assembled a remarkable women’s golf program. This season was no exception as the club not only qualified for the NCAA tournament, but one of its freshmen was in the hunt for the NCAA women’s individual golf championship.

Finishing one stroke behind champion Emma Talley of Alabama, Duke’s Leona Maguire managed to rack up several accolades in a memorable season. The most significant may have been winning the ANNIKA Award, recognizing her as the NCAA Division I Women’s Golfer of the Year. Of note, she became only the second Duke player to win the honor, joining Amanda Blumenhurst, who earned the honor in 2006.

In addition, Maguire also garnered the WGCA’s Player of the Year Award, placing her in rarified air. The only other Duke golfers to have earned the distinction of being recognized by the WGCA include Lindy Duncan in 2012 and Celine Boutier in 2013, giving the Blue Devils a trio of winners in the last four seasons. Of note, Maguire becomes the only Duke female golfer to win both the ANNIKA Award and the WGCA POY Award in the same season.

Such achievements were complemented by the honors of being the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year Awards, respectively. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Maguire broke the program’s single season record for best stroke average. Finishing her freshman campaign with an average 70.8, it edged the former mark of 71.0, which was owned by Amanda Blumenhurst, currently a competitor on the LPGA tour.

This season, she also tied a Duke single-season record for most tournament wins in a season with three. Said tournaments included the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Title, the ACC Women’s Golf Individual Championship, and the NCAA South Regional Individual Title.

During the NCAA tournament, which features match play among the eight schools that qualify, Maguire contributed to Duke advancing to the semifinals. Earning a victory in her match of the quarterfinal round, it resulted in Duke prevailing against Texas Tech.

Unfortunately, Maguire struggled against Baylor’s Dylan Kim in the semifinals. On the 18th hole, Maguire experienced heartbreak as her putt was so close, but it stopped right at the hole of the lip, allowing Kim to prevail. Baylor built on the momentum, winning the fifth and final match to proceed to the NCAA Finals. Taking into account that Duke were the defending NCAA Tournament champions, Maguire tried valiantly to provide the program with the prestige of back-to-back championships.

Hailing from Cavan, Ireland, Maguire grew up participating in sports such as soccer and swimming. Joined on the Blue Devils roster by her twin sister Lisa, the two are poised to maintain Duke’s status as a national power in women’s golf. Considering that Stephanie Meadow recently became the first Irish player to qualify for the LPGA Tour, it would come as no surprise is Leona (one of the world’s top ranked amateur golfers) followed in her historic footsteps.

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