Leona Maguire grew up in Ireland and felt that her only way to get to the Olympics was by swimmer. It was not until the summer before her sophomore year at Duke that she won a European amateur golf championship and became a member of the Irish Olympic team, which played at the first Olympic golf competition in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Five years later, Maguire took her standout game to the Tokyo Summer Games again.
“The Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world and every time you have the chance to represent your country, it’s a great honor,” said County Cavan, who was born in Ireland. “The Olympics are something few people have ever said they did. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to compete against the best in the world.”
It’s not surprising that the former Duke golfer deserves a spot to represent Ireland in other Olympics. The 26-year-old member of the LPGA Tour has been winning golf tournaments since she was nine, continued to be very successful on the course in college and made an excellent start as a professional.
The 2018 Duke graduate was three-time ACC Player of the Year and has been holding the all-time record (135) at number 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for weeks. Now, in her second full year on the LPGA, she is having her best season as a professional. It is number 16 on the LPGA money list and has reached three top 15 placements in a row. Maguire has a second place in the Meijer LPGA Classic and the LOTTE Championship as well as six other top 16 placings.
Maguire will be joined by another Blue Devil, Celine Boutier, at the Olympics – two of 60 golfers who will compete at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan from August 4-7.
Boutier will be competing in the Olympics for France for the first time and has been one of the hottest golfers on the LPGA Tour for the past four months. She currently ranks 32nd on the LPGA Tour money list and has made it into the top 8 of her last three tournaments. As a 2016 Duke graduate, she has seven top 20 finishes during the season. She achieved her highest result of the year at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, where she tied for fifth place. Her incredible summer run also features a 35th place in the US Women’s Open, a seventh place in the KPMG PGA Championship, and an eighth place in the Volunteers of America Classic in Texas.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to play in the Olympics and represent France,” said Boutier. “It happens every four years so you don’t have that many chances to play in it, so it’s very special.”
Boutier is only the second Duke women’s golfer to take an LPGA Tour title and win the 2019 Handa Vic Open. (Brittany Lang was the first Blue Devil to conquer a tour event and the only female Duke golfer to ever win a US Open title.)
“Olympia is like another major you want to play really well with,” said Boutier. “But I’m trying to think of it as just another tournament, play it one round at a time and not put any pressure on myself,” she added. “Having fun and having fun playing are the keys to my game.”
Boutier is no stranger to golf on the international stage. She has won several international amateur events including the European Ladies Amateur Championship 2012 and the British Ladies Amateur 2015.
As a Blue Devil, she won four individual events and helped the team to an NCAA title in 2014, in the same year she became the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WCGA) Player of the Year and won the Honda Sports Award for golf. In late 2014 and early 2015, Boutier was the No. 1 woman in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. In September 2014, she finished 29th as an amateur at the Evian Championship, an LPGA major in her home country.
Boutier admitted that she really enjoyed her time at Duke while learning about golf.
“It was a great stepping stone for me to come from France and have the chance to get to know American golf courses. Playing different types of grass and playing against the best amateurs has helped me improve my game,” she said.
Since joining Duke, Boutier has climbed the professional ladder steadily.
“I really enjoyed improving my game,” said Boutier, a member of the 2016 Solheim Cup team. Support system, that’s the key for me. All of these factors play a role in my game of golf. “
For Maguire, who finished 21st in a tie in Rio in 2016, this is the second Olympic appearance in a row.
“I really didn’t expect to be in the 2016 Olympics so I was just happy to be there,” she said. “This time it’s different. I’ve been professional golf for a year and a half on the LPGA, that will help me. The postponement from last year actually helped me as I improved and competed against most of the top golfers in the world on the tour . “
Maguire played some of the best golf courses of her career in the recent KPMG PGA Championship with a draw in 15th place, her best ever in a major. It also reached a major cash milestone when it broke the half a million mark in prize money for the season ($ 539,107).
She credits much of her success to her time at Duke, when she learned to compete both inside and outside the classroom.
“Learning from people around me has been my greatest experience at Duke,” she said. “At Duke, you were always surrounded by people who were better than you. On the golf team, in the classroom – everyone always seemed to be doing something good, great achievement in every field. That made me do better. “
Now she is taking those lessons and applying them to the next step in her career as a professional golfer, which involves not only handling important putts but also admiring fans.
“It’s a little crazy to be in my shoes when people ask for pictures and autographs,” said Maguire. “At the Meijer LPGA Classic, I actually met a little girl who was also called Leona. It is a privileged position that we are in as professional athletes. You try to inspire people as much as you can to convey what I do and what I do best and work hard to help them wherever I can, whether they want to become golfers or if it is in the School is or whether you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever. “
Her calm demeanor sometimes overshadows her iron determination and confidence. With a busy touring schedule, Maguire has climbed the leaderboard week after week.
“My first year as a rookie was not what we expected,” she said. “There should be a lot of new countries, a lot of new events and all that. The schedule has changed a few times, but it was nice to get a little foothold in the second half of the year, travel a bit, see some of the golf courses, find out how the LPGA is works and how many events I want to play in a row, something like that. “
This will be the second straight Olympics that two representatives of Duke Women’s Golf will participate in since Laetitia Beck joined Maguire in 2016, finishing 31st for her native Israel.
Photo credit: Johnny Moore, GoDuke the Magazine