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February 5, 2022

Leona Maguire

Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Crown Colony Golf & Country Club

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Thrilled to be joined by this year's winner, the first Rolex first-time winner of the season, Leona Maguire. Leona, what are some of the emotions you've been feeling over the past hour?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, hasn't really sunk in yet. It's a bit surreal. It's been a long time coming and I suppose you don't know it's going to happen until it actually does.

Tried to just stay really patient today. Didn't get ahead of myself. Wanted to go out and just shoot a number. Didn't want anybody to have to hand it to me. I wanted to go out and win it myself and earn it.

Yeah, just really proud of the way I played today.

Q. What was the mindset as you headed to the first tee on the cusp of becoming a Rolex first-time winner?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, tried not to think about too much stuff. Didn't look at Twitter or anything last night because I knew there would be a lot of talk about that sort of thing.

Yeah, I was trying to go out and shoot 20-under par. That was my goal today. I was feeling really calm. Wasn't very nervous. Just pretty much in the moment.

I mean, Dermot has been a huge help that way. He's pretty calm and we just go about our business pretty quietly and effectively, and just tried not to do nothing different today. Tried to just hit some really good shots.

It was a different wind today, so I felt like the course played tougher. The par-5s played a lot tougher. Hit some really nice iron shots, which came in pretty handy.

Q. Definitely some impressive golf for you. When did you start to feel the momentum kick in?

LEONA MAGUIRE: I think it was around the turn. I think the birdie on 7 was huge. Brittany had gone on that run early, and as I expected, I knew someone was going to go low today. I was just trying to keep up with her and Marina early on.

That birdie on 7 and 8 as well out of the pine straw was huge for momentum making the turn, and then another two on 10 and 11. I thought the shot on 11 was in. But, yeah, just some really solid iron shots to set up those chances.

Q. Walk us through the shot off the pine straw. That's always dangerous. You can hit that thing fat pretty easily. What was the thinking there and how did you execute it?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, you try to treat a little bit like a fairway bunker shot. It was a little bit in between and I wanted to hit a little iron and just chip it there. It was into the wind a little bit and Dermot said, No. Hit it and hit it as hard as you can. Just try and get good contact, ride the wind a little bit, draw it in. Right before hit it he was like, Clear your feet. Make sure you don't slip, because I slip at the best of times.

So, yeah, that was definitely a good call for him. Yeah, huge for momentum. Just hit it as hard as I could, just a really nice shot in there. Big for momentum I think.

Q. How far were you?

LEONA MAGUIRE: I think it about 130, 135 yards, something like that into a little bit of a wind. Yeah, just tried to keep the ball down, not get too much of a floater off the pine straw. That can happen.

Q. You mentioned being calm, and of course Brittany went on a run and you had fallen back. How in those situations do you not get anxious?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of respect for Brittany and Marina as golfers. I know Brittany is one of the best putters on tour and she holed a lot of putts early. Kind of expected that to happen. Didn't get rattled.

In my head I was trying to get to 20-under par, and I felt like if I got to 20-under par no one could catch me. So I wasn't worried about her going low early or Marina. I knew I would get my chances, and it was up to me to take them. Thankfully I did.

Q. A lot of players don't win until the final putt falls. You pretty much had this locked up on the last tee. Were you able to enjoy that walking up 18?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, there was no leaderboards out there all day and I didn't look at a leaderboard all day. I had no idea what was happening until the 18th fairway. Just tried to hit each shot as it came.

You say you want to enjoy it but it's hard until that sort of the final putt drops and you know it's for sure. You also worry about maybe the leaderboard being wrong or something like that, so you try not to do any of the maths in your head or anything like that.

Like I said, I was trying to get to 20-under par, that was my goal regardless. A little disappointed to bogey the last, but happens.

Q. Niall was tweeting for you. What's it been like to have his support?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, he's been there right from when I turned pro. Been a huge help in my management company. Yeah, mark and Niall have been there since the start. My sister Lisa works with them as well, so it's nice to have people in the background looking out for my best interests.

Niall has been trying to grow the game in Ireland in young girls, and hopefully this win today can help that as well?

Q. You mentioned on the green after the Solheim Cup you got to ride in a gold BMW. How are they going to up the ante for the win now?

LEONA MAGUIRE: I have no idea. I guess there is a week before I go home so be a little bit of a time to plan. I don't think the weather in Ireland is quite right for riding around in a convertible as it was in September.

I'm sure we'll figure something out. These wins don't happen very often. It's incredibly hard to win out here. These girls are so good. We'll definitely enjoy this win while it's here.

Q. Congratulations.


Q. I'm sure as you can imagine there is quite excitement at home. Just wondering, I know you were good when you were ten years of age winning and hitting that ball across the road. Just wondering when did you first start to believe that you could win on the LPGA for sure? Was it when you came off the Symetra Tour having won there twice and the improvements you made in the last couple years, or did you always believe that you would eventually go on and win on the LPGA Tour?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, I think I've worked my way up the levels every time. It's been a meticulous journey. I did it my way, the way I wanted to do it, with the help of my team around me.

I feel like the way I've gone about it, I've been prepared at each level and mastered each level. I know people probably thought I was going to win before this. I was maybe getting a little impatient last year, but I think going down the stretch at Meijer last year with Nelly, that was a huge confidence boost for me. Knowing that, yeah, she was three shots ahead and I nearly closed the gap, but really felt like I held my own that week, and then the 61 at Evian too, and Solheim Cup was a massive confidence booster.

Solheim Cup is one thing. To do it in an individual event when it's just you out there by yourself, it's a different ballgame. Yeah, I feel like I've been growing all the time. Did a lot of good work at home with Shane over the winter. Didn't expect for it to pay off this early in the season. I struggled a little bit last week. Wasn't entirely comfortable.

Did FaceTime with Shane on the range on Monday afternoon. He was actually going to pick up his girls from school and he FaceTimed me from the car park sitting outside the school.

Shane has been there from day one. He's been a massive part of this journey. It's those little things that you just need that little feeling sometimes for things to click.

Q. Talk about the influence of Dermot coming on your bag last year and what kind of difference that has made to your game. Obviously you have high expectations yourself and you know at home we've always got high expectations. People will start talking about majors now, and you've shot a 61 in a major.

LEONA MAGUIRE: I'll enjoy this one first before we have to worry about any majors. Yeah, I mean Dermot has been a massive help to me. I feel like Vegas was a turning point for me last year. Felt like I really let that one slip. That phone call to Dermot really sort of changed round the entire season. He's been a part of a lot of big events, some big wins obviously with Shane.

He's had a great career as a caddie. He didn't have to take my call. He took a big gamble coming out here on the LPGA never having done it before.

I guess saw something in me. Felt like he could make a difference. Yeah, I mean, I'm going to be forever grateful for him. It's nice to have a fellow Irish person out here on the bag as well. I feel like we get each other sense of humor. We're both pretty calm in demeanor. Dermot didn't change last week when I was tight 80, whatever it was after the first day, versus coming down the last with a four-, five-shot lead, whatever it was.

So, yeah, he's been a huge help and lucky to have him.

Q. First victory for an Irish woman on the LPGA. My question is watching you develop from the beginnings, from Ireland to playing at the University of Duke to the Solheim Cup, this ties into the last question, but what do you attribute your success to?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, a lot of hard work. Hasn't been easy. A lot goes on behind the scenes that people maybe don't realize. It's been a long journey. Yes, I've done it a lot of great things. I won a lot in college and amateur golf. But there is no guarantees.

I put in a lot of hard work over this off-season. Felt like my game was close but was just missing something. Yeah, I mean, you just need things to click together, sort of hole those right putts at the right time, hit the right shots. Yeah, I mean, it's golf. It's one of the most maddening games but one of the most rewarding at the same time.

Q. Just to follow up, we touched on this a couple questions ago, but what was your thought process going, say, as you saw or maybe you had a sense that some of the competitors that were chasing you were slipping back. What was your thought process? Did you change -- did you stay with what the plan or did anything change basically is what I'm asking?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, no, I didn't worry about what anybody else was doing today. Like I said, the goal was to get to 20, and I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could. I didn't want to assume that Brittany and Marina were the closest to me. I was assuming maybe Lexi or Patty or Stacy or someone like that was going 7-, 8-, 9-under par, and I didn't want to get to 18 and get a shock thinking I had a couple -- shot cushion.

No, I was very much sticking to my own game plan. Course played a lot different today with the wind. Was basically opposite, so par-5s weren't reachable. Took advantage of some of the other holes instead today. Took advantage of a lot of par-5s early in the week the last couple days.

It was sort of different. Relied on different strengths today.

Q. Just one last one. You have a little bit of time off now between this event and the next one. What are your plans for that time off and are you going to be going over to Asia?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, we're still only in February, few days into February, with a lot of work still to do in the rest of the season.

More of the same. I mean, we still have a few things to work on. It's by no means perfect. I still feel like I could have played better golf, definitely holed more putts.

Yeah, just keep trying to improve all the time. Obviously Jin Young and Lydia and Danielle weren't here this week, so just keep trying to raise my game and work my way up and try to put myself in this position as many more times as I can.

It's a nice position to be in here on a Saturday, I guess normally Sunday evening. So do everything I can to try and make it back here again this year.

Q. Congratulations.

LEONA MAGUIRE: Thanks, Paul.

Q. Obviously you've got all the support at home. Everybody is interested in how you're doing. Everybody wants you to do so well. How do you manage not to get overwhelmed by it all?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I suppose people have always had expectations, and I feel like even at Christmas people were, When you going to win? When you going to win? That was on the tip of everybody's tongue.

Last year was a great season but there was no win, so almost felt like it had as asterisk. I knew I wasn't far away. I suppose relying on -- I've always kept my circle small, and that's been it from day one. Mom, dad, Shane, Lisa, my physio, nutritionists, the staff at the Institute of Sport back home.

But, yeah, just relying on the people that I trust I think has been massive. Sticking to my guns knowing that what I was doing was working. Just needed a little bit more time.

I'm obviously delighted for people to be able to enjoy the win today, but at the same time, I'm the one hitting the shots and putting in the long hours. I'm the one that's there at the range until dark, up first thing.

Nobody sees that grind that goes behind it. Ultimately today I didn't really care about the outcome. It was as long as I knew I gave it my best shot it was ultimately nothing I could do.

Hopefully it was this week. If not, down the line again.

Q. So just a quick follow-up. The idea of being the Irish history maker isn't something -- you try to put that out of your head altogether, your focus is on what's in front of you?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean obviously it's a fortunate position to be in. I suppose it was more than likely going to be me or Stephanie. We played together on Tuesday. Played a birdie game on Tuesday and she beat me. I gave her $20 on Tuesday night. I didn't think I would be sitting here on Sunday. She obviously had a hole-in-one during the week, so might have to get a few more games throughout the year.

No, the support from home has been incredible. They've been rallying behind me, and that's something that I'll be truly grateful. Always it's an honor to represent Ireland no matter where you go. To see people excited about women's golf and Irish golf is fantastic. Yeah, hopefully Seamus can do the double tomorrow.

Q. You kind of alluded to it, but you almost took a different path to professional golf. How do you feel about that now?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm right where I need to be right now. I think, yeah, I mean, there is always should have, would have, could have. You don't know how things would've worked out. I'm glad I did what I did and it's led to this trophy sitting here beside me.

I'm going to stick to my guns and keep doing what I'm doing.

Q. When you joined the Epson Tour in the summer at 2018 after your historic career at Duke, I think the expectations were she's going to win and she's going to multiple times immediately. Took a little bit of time. When you did, seemed like the balloon, the air got let out of the balloon. When you came out here and that allowed you to play more free, earn a top 10 card, and come out here. I think the same expectations followed. Is it the same kind of emotions, that this one is off the back and the sky is the limit?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Definitely relief is one of the big emotions right no. You're kind of wondering, is it going to happen, is it going to happen. I felt like I played incredibly well in Hawaii last year and Lydia played better; same at Meijer, Nelly just played better. Came up against some of the best players in the world.

I kind of today was a big opportunity and I wanted to make the most of that. I didn't want to have any regrets. At the same time, it's hard to win. The LPGA is probably as strong as it's ever been. You have to put some really solid rounds together.

Felt like I had been putting three rounds together last year and there was always one round that was a little bit iffy. That was the game plan today, was to go out on the attack, not to be defensive, not to try and protect the lead. Go out and try and win it, and not just by one, try and get myself over the line by a few.

Q. And then for those of us who haven't been to Ireland, take us through what it means to your hometown for you to step in the winner's circle? Is it Christmas Day all over again?

LEONA MAGUIRE: It's my mom's birthday tomorrow so I guess this is a pretty good present for her. I'm not going to be home for it, but yeah, hopefully she'll get celebrate this next week when I'm home. That'll be special.

Yeah, my hometown has been an incredible supporter of me. Obviously saw the scenes after the Solheim Cup. I don't think they'll be acting like that maybe again this time.

But, no, I mean, being from Ireland, a small town, lucky to have the support I have. I think my Solheim Cup teammates were a little jealous that I got a reception that they didn't maybe get.

No, I mean, it's incredible to be the first Irish person and to show that it is possible from a girl from a small little town in Ireland to be able to compete against the best players in the world and win on the LPGA.

Q. Everyone at Duke is so happy for you and congratulations from everyone here. Just one quick question: How did Duke, Dan and John and everybody else kind of help you get to this point over your four years?

LEONA MAGUIRE: Yeah, I mean, I've always said going to Duke was one of the best decisions I ever made, as was staying there for my four years. I had an incredible four years and learned a lot from both Coach Brooks and John. I think it was the trust and confidence they put in me. They believed I could do it probably before I believed I could do it.

Coach Brooks didn't treat me any differently when I was winning, becoming world No. 1 amateur. He was always pushing me, as was John. No matter how many times I won in college he said, you should win more, you should win more. I've kept in touch with both of them. Look forward to going back to Pine Needles in a few months obviously.

Yeah, Duke has been a huge part of my journey. It's nice to have a few for Blue Devils out here this year as well on tour. Just the patience. I felt like college career started a bit like my professional career. The fall of my freshman year it was close, close, patient, patient. Obviously got that breakthrough win in South Carolina at the Darius Rucker.

It's a little bit similar. Thankfully not with the drama of a playoff this time.

Q. Just a quick one. It's important to celebrate these things. I don't know if you've got any plans. Are you planning to go let your hair down tonight and sing the Fields of Athenry or anything like that? Anything pop into your head right now?

LEONA MAGUIRE: No, I mean, we'll enjoy this one. I'm here in Florida for another week before I go home. Before Singapore and Thailand we've got three weeks off. Like I said, enjoy this one. These don't come around very often. I'm sure something will have to get put in the trophy at some point tonight.

THE MODERATOR: Perfect way to end. Thank you everyone for joining us, and congratulations once again Leona.


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