It’s been 10 years since the Irish Open was last held, and it’s no coincidence that the event’s return coincides with the rise of a bona fide Irish star in Leona Maguire. Currently No. 18 in the world, Maguire has begun to fulfill the promise she showed as an amateur with her breakout performance at the 2021 Solheim Cup and maiden victory at the LPGA Drive On earlier this year.
Maguire’s hometown of Cavan threw a parade in her honor when she returned to Irish soil after last year’s Solheim. The 27-year-old Duke grad then became the first Irish player to win on the LPGA, and now her personal sponsor, KPMG, is the title sponsor of her national Open.
KPMG’s influence on the women’s game ranges from title sponsor of one of the five LPGA majors, to sponsorship of the Irish Kids Golf Tour, which is open to boys and girls ages 13 and under. They also financially back the LPGA’s reinvigorated stats system.
“It was always a big event when it was on the schedule a few years ago,” said Maguire of the Irish, “and it’s taken 10 years, but there’s been a lot of planning and organizing that has gone into it, and hopefully this can become a big event on the LET schedule for a long time to come.”
Maguire and twin sister Lisa played as amateurs at the Irish Open from 2009 to 2012 at Portmarnock and Killeen Castle. Leona was 15 years old the first time she played in the Irish Open, and she was paired with Dame Laura Davies, which she called intimidating.
“She was hitting that 2-iron of hers everywhere,” said Maguire, “and I was trying to hit my driver within 40 yards of it.”
Catriona Matthew, Maguire’s Solheim Cup captain last year, won the Irish in 2012 by a single stroke over Suzann Pettersen and will compete alongside Maguire this week in the first two rounds at Dromoland Castle. Matthew was also on the winning European Solheim Cup team at Killeen in 2011.
“I played the whole 18 now in the pro-am and I think it’s going to be a tricky golf course,” said Matthew. “The front nine is tricky off the tee and the greens are difficult. I’m really looking forward to it and there’s a real buzz about the tournament and it looks like we’re going to have some good crowds.”
Linn Grant, a four-time winner on the LET this season, highlights another marquee pairing along with up-and-coming teen Pia Babnik and 41-year-old Liz Young, who recently won her first LET title in Switzerland.
The 72-hole stroke-play event features a field of 126 and a purse of 400,000 euros.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek