Toledo Irish: The Solheim Cup and Ireland’s Leona Maguire Take Over Toledo!
By Molly McHugh
Toledo was all the rage over Labor Day weekend! The highly anticipated transatlantic biannual Solheim Cup golf tournament made its way to the Glass City and drew in a record setting 130,000 attendees to Inverness Country Club. On top of bringing world-class golf to our city, the event filled the streets of downtown Toledo with music, food, fun and, most importantly, an electric atmosphere.
The Solheim Cup is based on a team match-play competition between the US and Europe. Both the US and Europe select their twelve best players. European players are selected from the Ladies European Tour (LET), and the US players are selected from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) to compete in the three-day tournament.
Throughout the three days, there are two rounds of foursomes, two rounds of fourball, and one round of singles matches. Teams are awarded points after each match based on their scores.
As per SolheimCup.com, the tournament “combines the tradition and prestige of the game of golf with passion for one’s country and continent, and the event has grown into the most highly coveted trophy in women’s professional golf team competition.”
Coming into the 2021 tournament, the US held a 10-6 lead on the Europeans overall, but it was the Europeans who retained the Waterford Crystal Solheim Cup with a 15-13 victory over the US. It was clear the Europeans had won when chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” started to ring out loud and proud on the 18th hole at the end of the day on Monday.
Ireland’s Leona Maguire
One of the stars of the European team was 26-year-old rookie, Leona Maguire, from Co. Cavan, Ireland. Leona began her amateur golf career in 2005 at the age of ten, and she escalated through the ranks holding the coveted title of No. 1 in the world on the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking from May 2015 through May 2016 and then again from August 2016 through February 2018. This length of 135 weeks at the top has been the longest in history. During her time at the top of the amateurs in 2015, Leona left Ireland and started her NCAA career at Duke University. She later turned professional in June of 2018.
Leona made history again as the first Irish woman selected to play in the Solheim Cup. Although a “Captains Pick” Leona stunned the world with her performance throughout the weekend. She was the only player on either side to play all five matches, and she didn’t lose one!
Only eight out of the twelve team members from each side compete in the foursomes and fourball match play on Days 1 and 2 of the tournament. On Day 1, Leona was paired with veteran golfer Mel Reid from the UK, where they beat the Korda sisters of the US in the first round of their foursome’s match. Nelly Korda had just come off an Olympic Gold Medal win in Tokyo and is currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
This win was a huge triumph for Maguire and Reid. As they proved to be a solid pairing, Maguire and Reid played together in the next day’s foursomes and fourball matches, where they won the foursomes and took a draw on the last round of fourball. Maguire also played with Georgia Hall in the Day 1 fourball match, and they won that competition. Consequently, Maguire entered singles play riding a winning streak.
The singles matches were held on Monday, September 6, Labor Day. Leona had an incredible performance again, where she crushed US rookie, Jennifer Kupcho, 5 and 4. This win led to Leona’s four and a half points on the board for the European team; only three other players in Solheim Cup history have added more than four points to the scoreboard.
“I’ve given it my absolute all this week. I couldn’t have given it anything more. I couldn’t have asked for a better week. I’ve been having a great year since June, since MEDIHEAL. I just tried to carry that through,” Leona was quoted as saying after her weekend triumph.
The Solheim Cup will travel back to Europe in 2023, but the city of Toledo will not forget this special weekend. I hope everyone enjoyed watching the tournament as I enjoyed living it! Cheers to Ireland for being the home of the MVP of the 2021 Solheim Cup!
*Molly McHugh is a Toledo native, Co-Host of ‘Echoes of Ireland’ radio show, and holds her MSc in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from National University of Ireland, Galway. Molly can be reached at mo************@gm***.com