Nobody can deny that world amateur No. 1 Leona Maguire is a rare breed.
But she’s an even rarer breed at the pressure-packed LPGA and Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament Stage II event in Florida this week because her goal is simply to complete 72 holes and secure Symetra Tour status.
While others are under huge pressure, the 22-year from Cavan in Ireland only has to make sure she doesn’t keel over.
The reason being that were she to make the top 80 who progress to Stage III and then win one of 20 LPGA Tour cards in early December, she cannot defer LPGA Tour status until after her graduation from Duke University in May.
In other words, she’d be obliged to turn professional immediately. And given her commitment to Duke, that’s something she’s not prepared to do.
— Duke Women’s Golf (@DukeWGOLF) September 27, 2017
She made that clear when she finished tied for sixth at Stage II of Q-School last year, opting not to go to the final stage but deciding instead to complete the last two years of her college degree.
It makes no sense to give up on that now, and amid speculation that the LPGA will restructure the way players earn cards next year, she’s decided to bide her time.
“Obviously, in an ideal scenario, you’d love to get an LPGA Tour card now and have it ready to go in May, but that’s not an option,” she said Thursday after opening Stage II with a 2-under 70 on the Panther Course at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla.
“So the plan is to come here, get Symetra Tour status and then when I do turn pro in May, I will have my Symetra status and whatever (LPGA) invites I pick up rather than having to wait for August or September, depending on how the LPGA restructures the Q-School next year.
“More than likely it is not going to be the same as it is this year and there will be no more LPGA Tour cards (via Q-School).
“But by having Symetra Tour status, hopefully, I will be able to get an LPGA Tour card quicker that way.”
Unlike the majority of the 190-strong field in action in Florida this week, Maguire is under no pressure.
“I only have to finish 72 holes this week — it doesn’t matter where I finish,” she said.
“Obviously, I will try to finish as high as I can but there is not as much pressure on this week, so I can just go out and play golf, which is nice and something a lot of people here can’t say. The top-80 thing is not as significant.
Having picked up her second college win of the 2017-18 season for Duke and the ninth of her career at the Tar Heel Invitational last weekend, Maguire will be gunning next spring for the two big honours to have eluded her so far – the NCAA individual and team titles.
“Nationals were obviously very disappointing last season and not how we would have liked to finish,” she said. “So we’ll have one more crack and give it a much better go this time and hopefully come back with some trophies.”
As for her move into the professional ranks, Maguire said it will happen after graduation in May but she’s still not sure exactly when or where she will make her pro debut.
“I will have to figure out where and when I am going to play next year based on when the schedule is released in December-January and see what invites I can get,” she said.
“I can get a maximum of six and try to qualify for any majors. So it will just be a case of trying to figure out if I want to play a mixture of Symetra or LPGA Tour events or stick to Symetra and try and get my LPGA Tour card that way.
“I haven’t finalised that yet. When I turn pro will depend on the schedule and how things work out.”
The Curtis Cup will be played at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y, next June 8-10 and the game’s top woman amateur has not quite ruled out a fourth appearance.
“If I am not playing in a pro event, I will definitely play,” she said. “It’s one of the best amateur events in the world and I’ve enjoyed it the three times I have played.”
She’s exempt for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in August, providing she remains an amateur, but says she’s unlikely to take up that privilege.
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“It’s very unlikely I will be an amateur then,” she said. “I will just have to go and qualify.”
As for her opening 70 on the Panther Course Thursday, a score which left her just three shots off the clubhouse lead, she was pleased with her performance.
“It’s usually a little tougher than the other course and it was quite windy today too, so I was happy to shoot under par,” she said. “Anything under par is always good on these courses.”