Leona Maguire prevails in familiar friendly match

Leona Maguire, far right, hugs sister and caddie Lisa after defeating Stephanie Meadow, left.

Leona Maguire, far right, hugs sister and caddie Lisa after defeating Stephanie Meadow, left.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Conventional thinking may suggest that it’s more difficult to face a friend (or a sister) in match play, but Leona Maguire is used to it. Stephanie Meadow became her latest “friendly” victim on Wednesday at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Former Curtis Cup partners on the victorious Great Britain & Ireland squad, and many times competitors in Europe, Maguire and Meadow played similar games at the Country Club of Charleston.

photo

Stephanie Meadow reacts to missing her par putt at No. 10 during the Round of 64 at the 2013 U. S. Women's Amateur.

“We both draw the ball, we’re both pretty much on every fairway and we’re within a yard of each other distance-wise,” Maguire said after her 3-and-2 victory. “I’ve played a lot of golf with Steph. I know her game pretty well, but I don’t think it necessarily gave me an advantage.”

In fact, Maguire knows that if she hadn’t made a putt for par to halve the ninth hole and keep the match all square, things could have gone differently. Maguire won No. 10 with a par to take a 1-up lead, and called that the turning point of the match. Maguire won Nos. 15 and 16 to advance.

Maguire, of Ireland, last met Meadow, of Northern Ireland, in match play at the 2012 Irish Ladies Amateur, and to the same result. The two played stroke-play qualifying together at this year’s Irish ladies.

Maguire also has had to face twin sister Lisa, who played the U.S. Women’s Amateur but failed to qualify for match play. Lisa picked up Leona’s bag on Wednesday, which was key in Leona’s victory. The Irish twins aren’t used to such heat.

Incredibly, this is the first time Leona and Lisa, 18, have played the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Normally it coincides with the Ladies Irish Open, but that event won’t be played until the end of the month.

The Maguires ended up in Charleston, with mom Breda chaperoning, courtesy of a gap in their competition schedule. Leona was conspicuous Tuesday with her bright blue European Team golf bag and thick Irish accent. In contrast, Meadow, a senior at Alabama, speaks with few traces of her Ulster accent.

This trip stateside marks one of only a handful for the Maguires. As she waited for Leona to put her bag away, Lisa ticked off the tournaments –all team events –on her fingers. There has been a Curtis Cup, a Junior Solheim Cup, a Junior Ryder Cup, a quick trip to Pinehurst and now this, an introduction to the Lowcountry. The Maguires never have seen the West Coast – it seems a lifetime away from Ireland – but hope they will someday. College in the U.S. is still in the cards.

“It’s definitely an option that we’re kind of looking toward, but we haven’t really decided on anything yet,” Lisa said.

Lisa and Leona share the charming Irish accent just like they share nearly every other characteristic. Asked for a way to easily tell the two apart, Leona struggled.

Though Lisa is left-handed, she plays right-handed, just like Leona. As a young child, Leona fell and gashed her forehead, which resulted in 12 stitches between the eyes and one heck of a scar. That has since faded, however, leaving the Maguires identical once again.

“When we have hats on, even though we’re on different holes, it can be tricky for people who don’t know us well,” Leona said.

By the end of this week, however, women’s golf fans could know them well.

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