Irish eyes will be on Leona Maguire at the ISPS Handa World Invitational. LPGA

She will be a favorite of fans, who can’t hurt considering how well she is playing. Leona Maguire scored a 66 in the bottom round of the final day at Muirfield at the AIG Women’s Open on Sunday, finishing fourth with Minji Lee. Three days later, she was in Northern Ireland for the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics to the enthusiasm of the locals.

Maguire’s family location is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Antrim, down the A-4, which is a scenic, for anyone who wants to get away from the coast and see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. It’s a beautiful tour. , This makes Maguire as much a hometown hero as fans will get.

It is not sad that she accepts the role.

“I think it’s going to be a fun week,” Maguire said in a short roundtable with local media on Wednesday. “It is good to play in front of the home crowd. Nice weather is also an added bonus, so hopefully there will be plenty of people to support this week.

There will be some family and friends involved who don’t usually get to see his drama.

“It’s good to just feed the energy of the crowd,” Maguire said. “Hopefully there will be a lot of people to support. There are a lot of Irish (competitors) playing this week. Steph (Meadow) and (Olivia Mahaffey) are also playing, so yeah, hopefully the crowd will rally behind us. And hopefully we can do a good golf show for them.

Maguire is returning to this part of Northern Ireland for the first time since 2019. There were no events in the region in 2020 due to COVID, and Maguire missed the 2021 ISPS Handa World Invitational due to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Since her last appearance, she has been the star of the victorious European Solheim Cup team and won her debut on the LPGA Tour at the LPGA Drive On Championship in Crown Colony, making her the first Irish woman to do so in Tour history. All this together makes their homecoming even more special.

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“I played at this event three years ago,” Maguire said, “so it’s nice to go out (and play) where it’s a little familiar. Both courses are in really good shape, so, yeah, Looking forward to a very different test this week than Muirfield last week.”

Massarean Golf Club and Galgorm Castle are parkland courses, lush and dense, with trees and thickets you could lose a puppy—in other words, as far as you can get from the firm-and-sharp links of East Lothian. can.

“It’s going to be a very different test this week, get the ball in the air a little bit,” Maguire said. The fairways are pretty bouncy here, a little more than I expected. Keeping the ball off the rough will be the most important thing this week. Last week were bunkers, this week rough. It is a different challenge but I am looking forward to it.

“Muirfield you can’t even switch off for a second,” she said. “Like most LINK courses, you really have to pick and execute your goals. I think Masrin Sneaky is tough this week. There are a few blind tea shots out there, so you want to prepare as much as possible. But at the same time energy Save as well.

“There are more demands on my time this week as well as I normally would at any other LPGA event. But it’s nice to be home this week and be in front of home fans. I’m sure a little bit of Galgorm’s spa There will be additional use.”

Professional women’s sport has not always been as accessible in Ireland. While the island nation is chock-full of golf history and has some of the most incredible links courses in the world, past conflicts have made it difficult to build a steady steady build of professional women’s events in the country. Now, that seems to have changed. The tri-approved ISPS Handa World Invitational is one of two women’s professional offerings over the next two months. The KPMG Women’s Irish Open will be played at Dromoland Castle from 22 to 25 September.

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“I got to play in three Irish Opens,” Maguire said. “Grown up. I mean, when we were kids, dad brought us to the men’s Irish Open because there weren’t any women. Then I got that experience as an amateur. I think at some point as an amateur It’s always a good thing to get a chance to test your game against the best players in the world.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of kids walking around this week getting pictures, autographs, maybe a ball or two. Those are the memories that stay with you.

“That we have two (Irish) events back on schedule will hopefully strengthen those events over the next few years.”