For over a decade Leona Maguire has been lighting up golf courses all over the world. The Cavan native transitioned comfortably from child sports star to professional athlete and learned plenty along the way. Now, after securing her first win as a professional golfer, the 24-year-old looks back on her journey to another significant career milestone.
What was it like for you to get your first professional win, at the Symetra Tour's Windsor Golf Classic in California?
It was special, getting the first one under my belt. I'd been close for the last couple of weeks. It was a mixture of being really delighted and being a bit relieved as well.
Did you feel like the win was coming after you'd showed some good form over the last few weeks?
I played some nice golf in Australia at the start of the year, then when I came back to the States I felt like I was playing well. I was really hopeful going into the last round, I played some of best golf that day. It was really nice to finish with a 65 on Sunday and to go into the playoff and finish it off with another birdie.
You shot a final round 65 to chase down overnight leader Pajaree Anannarukam and set up a playoff. What was going through your head?
I've been in a few playoffs before, in a playoff all you can do is try and make birdie and hope that they don't. She (Pajaree Anannarukam) hit it and I was trying to play my own game and forget what she was doing. I thought it was going to stay short but it just kept going and kept going. When it dropped, it was a nice feeling.
What is the pressure like in a situation like that?
This is my job, this is what I do for a living. The amount of hours and practice you put in, it comes down to moments like that. I have a lot of support back home, everyone was willing me to win. That brings its own type of pressure, I just wanted to win and I wanted it to go well.
After the win Irish golfer Pádraig Harrington tweeted you and said "enjoy it", did you?
I'm in Phoenix now, I stopped off with friends I went to college with here so it was nice to meet them and celebrate with them last night and I get to go home tomorrow. People have been asking me has it sunk in yet? The amount of messages I've received is incredible from so many people. It will be nice to share it with my family and friends when I go back to Cavan.
How did your twin sister Lisa react to your win?
She was really happy for me, she actually caddied for me recently, she was just a little mad that I didn't win when she was on the bag. She was happy, glad that I got the win.
Everyone in Ireland has been watching you since you were 11-years-old, what was it like to grow up with so many following your sporting achievements?
I didn't know any different. I was just trying to play my golf. The fact that me and Lisa were twins and playing together meant there was a bit of novelty, we always had people interested and offering their support. I just go and play my golf.
Has it been difficult to adapt to being a professional?
It's been different to what I expected, lots of travel, this is my tenth week, I started off in Dubai, then I had four weeks in Australia and five weeks here in the States. I'm clocking a lot of air miles. It is quite demanding, we don't get much of a break, it will be nice to get two weeks off soon. In saying that, I have been travelling to incredible places and meeting amazing people, I get to play golf every day so I am very fortunate.
Is there an element of loneliness involved in being on tour?
No I don't think so, I've been pretty lucky that I have a good group that I travel around with, it would be great to see a few more Irish girls out here in the next few years. So far so good, it's been really enjoyable. I have a good group and a good team around me to stop me getting lonely.
There is a big push on women's sport in Ireland at the moment with the 20x20 campaign which you're central to, what's it like to be a part of it?
I think it's a fantastic initiative and it's incredible to see the amount of people who have got behind it in all walks of life. There has been a huge push for visibility and I think Irish athletes have been doing incredible things over the last few years. I think it would be nice to see over the next while that they get the recognition, they deserve it and it would encourage more young girls to get into sport.
Are you comfortable being a role model?
Anything I can do to encourage people to live an active and healthy lifestyle is positive. I'm living my dream of being a professional golfer, all around the world. I had role models growing up so I'm happy to help out any way I can. It's still a little weird for me to be asked for photographs and autographs, I don't think that will ever go away but any time I see young girls like that or out on the course I'm happy to help any way I can.
What's next for you?
I'm going home for a couple of weeks, then I will play a bit on the European Tour in Morocco and Dubai, then straight back to the States to go on the Symetra Tour, so a busy stretch again.