Leona Maguire first Irish winner in LPGA Tour history

Feb 5, 2022, 12:47 AM | Updated: 4:15 pm

Leona Maguire holds the winner's cup after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship golf tournament a...

Leona Maguire holds the winner's cup after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship golf tournament at Crown Colony Golf & Country Club, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Leona Maguire became the first Irish winner in LPGA Tour history Saturday, closing with a 5-under 67 for a three-stroke victory in the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony.

“It’s huge for Irish golf,” Maguire said. “There was never an Irish player on the tour, let alone a winner. Hopefully, there is a lot of people watching at home tonight with big smiles on their faces and little girls watching knowing they can do that, too.”

Tied with Marina Alex for the second-round lead after a 65 on Friday, Maguire had seven birdies and two bogeys — the last on the par-5 18th with the outcome decided. The 27-year-old former Duke star finished at 18-under 198.

“It’s a bit surreal,” Maguire said. It’s been 17 years in the making, and you kind of wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Just really proud of how I played all week, especially today. Dermot (Byrne) was incredible on the bag. … Probably more relief now than anything else.”

Lexi Thompson was second after a 65.

“I played with Leona the first two days and she’s been hitting it amazing,” Thompson said. “I knew I had to make birdies to get even closer. … She obviously played great again today and definitely well deserved. I think it will help her out a lot. She’s an amazing talent.”

Maguire had an early birdie and a bogey, then ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from the seventh to the 13th. She also birdied the par-4 16th. Her closing bogey left her 1 over for the day on the four par-5 holes.

“I knew my game was close,” Maguire said. “I did a lot of hard work in the offseason.”

Sarah Schmelzel had a 64 to finish third at 14 under, Alex (72) was another stroke back with Stacy Lewis (68), Patty Tavatanakit (67), Xiyu Lin (63) and Brittany Altomare (68).

“Leona had a great day.” Alex said. “It was really awesome to watch her play. She really got into a groove there kind of like middle of the front and into that back nine, made a ton of birdies. So just had a push to try and keep up with her. Didn’t really work out, but that’s OK.”

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Leona Maguire first Irish winner in LPGA Tour history