Irish Twins Twice as Talented

They are as similar as two spanking new golf balls, right down to the

dimples. Ireland’s 15-year-old twins, Lisa and Leona Maguire, are set


to create much the same wow at this summer’s Curtis Cup as did Michelle

Wie in the match of 2004.


The Great Britain & Ireland team for Boston – the match is to be played at 

historic Essex Country Club June 11-13 – will not be finalized until after

the Helen Holm Stroke Play at the end of April. But if it were chosen

tomorrow, the two would be at the top of most lists.


Mary McKenna, captain of GB&I and herself an Irishwoman, chuckles

delightedly when she talks of her young compatriots. “They’re

remarkable,” she says. “They’re just a couple of normal kids, but when

they’re out on the course, they’re like a couple of wily seniors.” 


Roddy Carr, son of that legendary Walker Cup man Joe Carr, confirms as

much. “They’re the real deal.”


The twins were 9-year-old swimming champions when Lisa broke her

elbow and the specialist advised that she should try a racket sport by

way of helping to restore the joint’s original flexibility. The twins’

parents – primary school teachers Declan and Breda – drove

them to an appropriate sports club where the pair took absolutely no

interest in racket sports. They preferred golf.


“Nothing surprised me more than the fact that they got good so

quickly,” said Declan. By way of illustrating his point, he told how

the girls had only been playing a couple of seasons when Lisa won the

12-and-under World Juniors at Pinehurst. On an admittedly shortened

course, she was as many as 10-under par for one round as she followed

Rory McIlroy in making an impact on America’s pee-wee brigade.


No less uncanny than the degree to which the twins look alike is the

extent to which they have assembled a virtually matched set of results.

Take 2008, when they were still only 13. Where Leona won the Irish

Women’s Close championship and Lisa was runner-up, Lisa won the

Irish Girls’ championship and Leona was the runner-up.


Last year, Lisa won the Irish Closed and the Irish Stroke Play as her

sister came out on top in the European Girls’ individual championship

and the French Under 21s. On the team front, it was Leona who holed the

winning putt as Ireland defeated Sweden to seal Ireland’s first triumph

in the European Junior Team championships. Paired together in the

foursomes, as they might well be in Boston, the two won every match.


When Wie played her part in the ’04 U.S. victory at Formby, she was

already 6-foot tall – and 6-foot-4 by the time she had donned

the high heels she wore to the closing ceremony. The twins, on the

other hand, are still growing and have yet to reach their potential in

terms of driving distance. But already, as McKenna says, they are long

enough.


Their swings are alike in that they are so utterly simple as to make

the actions of others look slightly unwieldy. Lisa, of the two, maybe

swings the faster and is marginally the longer. Leona, meanwhile, is

reckoned to have a tad more touch on and around the greens.


At a time when all too many teenagers in the U.K. would seem to be under

the impression that one good result is the signal to drop everything

and join the professionals, the pair are serving as the best possible

role models. Both go along with their parents’ belief that education

has to come first and both are out to collect the best possible haul of

exam results.


Neither likes to take time off from school, though, in the case of this

Curtis Cup, they have sought – and been granted – permission from the

Irish Education Board to play “if selected.” To be honest, there is no

“if” about it.


Those who like to see golfers bursting with joie de vivre on the golf

course might be disappointed when they see the twins holing 20-footers

with much the same nonchalance as another might post a letter.


However, the fact that they are not remotely extroverted maybe goes a

long way toward explaining how they have managed to stay on the right side

of their golfing elders – and that though they spent their first few

years clearing local prize tables of all the Waterford glass and china

casserole dishes.


With golf itself mostly more about seniors than juniors, it goes

without saying that people have worried lest the twins could have

missed out on something of their childhoods. Indeed, Anne Wallace, the

former president of the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union, fell into that

category as she watched the pair playing in the Irish Closed at Lahinch

in ’07.


She was still pondering on the matter as she walked back to the car

park where she heard a variety of squeaks and squeals coming from the

sand dunes. It was the soon-to-be crowned Irish Ladies’ champion and

her runner-up cascading down the sandy slopes on their backsides.
That was the moment when Wallace stopped worrying.

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