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Maguire twins ready to make big impact in the golfing world

 

By Brian Keogh

When Tiger Woods turned professional at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, he set off a barrage of flashbulbs with his "hello world" greeting to planet golf.

22 years later, twins from the little village of Ballyconnell in Co Cavan walked into the Presidential Ballroom at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Resort in Atlantic City to make a similar announcement.

But while there was no "hello world", no flashbulbs or razzmatazz and just three reporters asking questions, a real human story was unfolding that spoke volumes about two 23-year-old girls with the power to inspire a generation of Irish girls to take up the game.

Given her college record - two National Player of the Year awards and 10 career wins en route to breaking Lydia Ko's record for the most weeks at the top of the World Amateur rankings with 135 - Leona could have hogged the spotlight and made her debut on her own.

That she chose to share her big moment with her sister said it all about their bond and their journey, which continues tomorrow when they make their professional debuts in the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the course where Sam Snead won the first of his seven Majors.

The twins have signed with Modest! Golf, the boutique agency headlined by One Direction's Niall Horan, and secured bluechip sponsorship deals with KPMG, Allianz and Puma while maintaining their lifelong relationship with PING.

But whatever about the financial security blanket of their commercial deals, their biggest asset remains their sisterly bond.

"Lisa's resilience over the last few years has been pretty inspiring to me," Leona said yesterday as her sister, a little more nervous, sat next to her.

"I think there is no one that's worked harder in my eyes to get back to where she was.

"Just seeing her attitude as well, never really giving up. I think that's something that is going to hold her in great stead for the years to come."

Hard work comes easily to the Maguires, who are hugely gifted academically, graduating with great distinction from Duke University last month.

"The number one thing Pádraig (Harrington) said to us a few years ago at an awards ceremony was that the hard work it would take to complete our studies and get a degree would be the same hard work it takes to succeed on tour," Leona explained.

With a collegiate scoring average of 70.9 - the lowest in NCAA Division One women's golf history - she has marked herself out as a special talent.

But it's been a tougher road for Lisa, who many forget won Curtis Cup honours and 16 amateur titles, including the European Ladies Amateur Championship and Spanish Ladies Amateur Championship in 2011 before embarking on a swing change in college.

She has no problem admitting that she's on a different path.

"Obviously our careers could take a little bit of a different journey along the way over the next couple of years," she said.

Leona insists her dream is to be the best player in the world but Lisa is no different.

"That's been the dream since I started playing 10 years ago and I don't think that's changed," she said.

In signing with KPMG, they join a stable that features such names as Phil Mickelson, Paul Dunne and Stacy Lewis, while close advisor Paul McGinley is another Allianz ambassador.

They are hugely appreciative of the trust these global brands have placed in them. But Leona, for one, is not overawed, just excited to be reunited with former college rivals she knows she can beat.

She added: "The dream is to be the best player in the world."

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