20×20: Questions with Leona Maguire
1. What’s your first memory of sport as a child?
From a young age I remember going to all sorts of GAA club matches and Cavan county games with Dad to cheer on the boys in blue. I was about five when I remember watching Sonia O Sullivan win her silver medal at the Sydney Olympics and watching Ian Thorpe dominate in the pool for Australia.
2. How did you first become involved in sport?
I was involved in all types of sport from a very young age. I enjoyed being and playing outside with my sister and friends in the evenings and at weekends so playing anything with a ball or a stick was right up my alley. Gaelic football and swimming were my two favourite but I really enjoyed playing any sport or game that fuelled my competitive spirit.
3. What sports did you try as a child?
I literally played every sport under the sun. I really enjoyed playing Gaelic football with the local club and at school and I spent countless hours in the swimming pool as well training both in the mornings before and in the evenings after school. Dad used to help run a summer camp for kids when we were younger too and the highlight of that was always playing some Olympic handball or rounders outside!
4. What decided you to settle on your chosen sport?
I loved the fact that golf could be played outside in the fresh air for countless hours on end everyday. I really like the challenge golf presents, you rarely get the same conditions 2 days in a row and each course varies so much depending on the weather, design and grass type.
One of the things that I liked the most about golf was the transfer of skills that could be applied to everyday life. The lessons that I have learned on the golf course have had direct applications to other areas of my life such as school and college. Over the years, golf has helped foster my strong work ethic, sense of discipline and determination, all qualities that will come in handy in other areas of my life.
5. Who has had the most impact on your sporting career?
My parents have been huge role models for me growing up and still remain very much so to this day. They have made so many sacrifices in order to ensure that I have the opportunities to pursue my dreams both on and off the golf course and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.
6. What female do you most admire in the world of sport?
I have so much admiration and respect for Katie Taylor both as a person and as an athlete. She has been a true pioneer for women’s boxing and for sport in Ireland all while remaining so incredibly humble and gracious. I also really admire Ellen Keane for tenacity and overwhelming sense of positivity. Her passion for swimming and life in general is truly infectious and she is truly an inspiration to us all when it comes to the determination it takes to overcome adversity and to do so with a smile on your face!
7. Outside of sport what do you do in your leisure time?
I love going to other sporting matches with friends and take time out in the evenings to go to the cinema. When I am at home I really enjoy spending time with my two golden retrievers Sydney and Snoopy, taking them on nice long walks in the countryside and around the golf course.
8. What is the last movie you went to see? What is your favourite movie of all time?
I just went to see the Joker last weekend but as a kid I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and I could watch all the movies back to back no problem!
9. What music do you listen to?
I don’t really listen to that much music, I prefer to watch tv shows in my spare time but if I do I would probably just listen to whatever is most popular on the radio right now
10. Are you a reading fan? If so what are you currently reading?
I had to do a lot of reading as part of my psychology degree in college so I have taken a bit of a break from social reading right now. However, I do enjoy reading sports autobiographies from the likes of Serena Williams when I am travelling on long flights.
11. Do you follow any sports stars on social media? If so who?
Most of the accounts that I follow on social media are sports stars. I really enjoy getting an insight into their training schedules and seeing how they prepare for events. I enjoy seeing content from all our Irish athletes and teams as well as international stars such as Michaela Shiffrin, Elena Delle Donne, Lindsey Vonn, Serena Williams and Simone Biles.
12. Forget about your sporting diet for a moment? Your favourite meal when you breakout?
It’s hard to beat good southern BBQ; sweet potato casserole, beef brisket, cornbread, hush-puppies and ribs became a favourite of mine spending 4 years at college in North Carolina. For dessert, I really have a soft spot for Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream or a good 99!
13. Who do you most admire in your own sport?
I really admire Padraig Harrington for everything he has achieved and for what he has done to promote golf in Ireland. He has been a great role model for young Irish golfers who can watch him on TV or playing in Irish Opens, hoping one day to emulate his success.
I also have huge admiration for Suzann Pettersen, especially for her achievements and passion shown in the Solheim Cup, especially after giving birth to her son, Herman. The passion she shows for the game in incredible and her strong work ethic and drive to succeed is an inspiration for all young girls taking up the game.
14. Do you have a special ritual before competing?
I always have 10 tees in my pocket; 7 long ones and 3 short ones and my lucky shamrock or Duke ball marker. I keep my routine consistent for every round that I play and I don’t do anything different whether it’s the first round of a small tournament or the last round of a major.
15. Do you still play other sports for fun?
I still like to incorporate swimming as part of my fitness routine especially during the off season to build up some extra stamina. It is also a great way for me to relax and recover after long days on the course and after training in the gym. I used to play football up until a few years ago but I really can’t play contact sports at this point of my career as the risk of getting injured is just too high.
16. What advice would you give to young girls & boys to encourage them to participate in sport?
I would advise all young boys and girls to play as many sports as they can and to stay as active as they can growing up. Sport is a great way to meet new people, travel the world and experience new cultures all while learning new skills that will stand to you in all other areas of your life. But most importantly, have fun while playing sport, try playing with as many friends as you can and enjoy being outside in the fresh air after school or at the weekend. One last thing that I would say is to not get discouraged if you don’t enjoy the sport right away, there are so many different types of sports and activities that you can take part in, there really is something for everybody and you can achieve anything if you work hard enough!
17. What has been your biggest sporting achievement?
I have had so many great memories from the last number of years but I would have to say that my biggest achievements would either have been reaching and staying at the number 1 position in the world rankings for 135 consecutive weeks or representing Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
18. How do you cope with (a) injuries; (b) other setbacks?
I have been lucky enough to remain relatively injury free over the last number of years. I always find it helpful to focus on the things I can control and to trust my processes. However, I focus considerably on exercises with my physio Julianne and my strength coach Timmy that will keep my body strong, healthy and flexible throughout the season. With respect to setbacks, I like to focus on what I can do to improve all areas of my game throughout the year and during the off season. I keep statistics from my tournaments rounds which allow me to analysis what areas of my game I can target in practice.
19. What do your family make of your success?
My family are incredibly supportive and have been extremely encouraging throughout my career. They love to come out to tournaments to watch me play and they have made plenty of sacrifices over the years so that I could chase my dreams of professional golf.
20. What does sport mean to you?
Sport has been a huge part of my life since I was a young girl and I simply couldn’t imagine my life without it. Sport has given me so many wonderful opportunities over the last number of years that I simply wouldn’t have been able to pursue without it. Being involved in sport has allowed me to meet so many incredibly people and develop so many wonderful friendships that I will treasure for a lifetime, I have been able to travel all over the world while playing the game I love and I have been able to experience so many new cultures that have really helped to broaden my horizons.
Photo Credit: Golffile