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"Advice when choosing the right programme for you is key"

There has been so many success stories of Irish athletes choosing to showcase their skills at collegiate level in the US, none more so than former Duke University starlet Lisa Maguire. Lisa has enjoyed an illustrious career from the humbling beginnings of playing at Castle Hume Golf Club to touring the world as a professional golfer on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour (LPGA).

Atlantic Scholarships caught up with the Cavan native to talk all things golf and academics.

Lisa, talk us through your early career as an amateur golfer growing up in Ireland

I started playing golf at the age of ten, at that time playing the par 3 course at the Slieve Russell facility before moving to Castle Hume, Enniskillen. Fortunately for me I got quite good fairly quickly so from a young age I was representing Ulster and Ireland junior teams. The next transition phase was then to move onto the European teams where I represented Europe on several occasions with the Junior Solheim Cup being one example.

I was lucky enough to represent Great Britain & Ireland also at the Curtis Cup. Leona and myself were the youngest players to ever play in the tournament, Leona being the youngest by 15 minutes...

In 2008, I was part of the European team that played in the Junior Ryder Cup in Valhalla, Kentucky. So, from a young age I was very used to a busy schedule and traveling for tournaments whilst also trying to maintain top honors in school.

Both Leona and yourself presented the Ryder Cup trophy to the winning European team in 2006 at the K Club. How did that manifest itself?

Well it's funny both Leona and myself had played for a year or so. That summer we had both played in the kid's world championships in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I managed to win my age group and Leona finished third so that was the tournament really where we started to get a bit more attention back home in Ireland. At the time we had worked with Bord Bia to help with some promotion for the Ryder Cup, they were one of the title sponsors for the event.

We got a phone call asking if we would like to be a part of the occasion and of course we jumped at the opportunity. I have fond memories of the day, we were lucky enough to have backstage access which meant we got to meet some of the players. I even managed to get a photo with Tiger so it was pretty awesome.

We watched the matches on the Friday and then obviously on the historic Sunday. It's something that when you look back now it was a privilege to be a part of especially with it being played in Ireland.

How did the dream move to Duke come about?

I think there was a lot of variables with the decision to move to the US. One of the main reasons especially for me as a golfer was the weather. Obviously with the winter's being so cruel in Ireland it's very hard to maintain a certain level of golf year round so that was definitely one factoring reason for the move.

Also, academics are extremely important to me. Both my mum and Dad are teachers so from an early age we were taught the importance of academics and obtaining a strong education from an established university. A lot of college coaches used to follow the European summer tours when I was playing so the conversations began and really it was a case of filtering some of the colleges and finding the right fit for me.

We visited a lot of colleges before making our final decision. It's very easy to look at colleges on paper and think it might be the right programme for you but until you are pointed in the right direction or even visit the university you're none the wiser to each programme. It was vital for us to meet the team, coaches, see the facilities and get a sense of life around the campus.

How did you find combing both academics and golf in college?

When it came to the academics as I mentioned before, I enjoyed that aspect so that wasn't much of a change. It was very important that it wasn't just all golf and no education for me. I didn't want golf to be the sole priority and academics to take a back seat.

For me Duke had a very strong reputation from both an academic and sporting background so I knew I was going to be challenged everyday. So for me knowing that I would have to be just as competitive in the classroom as well as on the course helped me to settle in to my environment much quicker. Again, this was my personal preference and I valued academics very highly, it's obviously different for every athlete but my advise would be to focus on the academics just as much as your chosen sport.

You turned professional in 2018, how was the transition from college athlete to professional player in the LPGA and LET?

Turning professional is obviously a big step in any athlete's career. The amount of hours that is spent practicing your craft to then get to the point where you're playing at the highest level in the game is what young people dream of. For me college prepared me exceptionally well to transition from being an amateur to turning professional. The experience of playing at some of the best courses America has to offer and playing against LPGA standard players whilst in college is huge. There are so many similarities between both the collegiate level of golf and the professional game.

The one thing that I did find different is obviously the travel time. It's funny, people only see the work on camera from a Thursday to a Sunday but the time spent traveling between tournaments and practicing is something that took some time to adjust too. In college or even at national level during the summer, you would have a week of tournament and then a week off. This was very different in the professional game where it was a tournament, week after week. So for me I found that recovery became much more important. You don't have the time to practice on some aspects of your game which might need some extra minutes.

The one plus side of this is that if you are on a run of form when you're playing well then it can be rewarding to play an event every week. For me it was of course just a massive deal to see that the fruits of my labour had paid off to the point that I was playing at the biggest level possible.

What advice would you give young student / athletes who are looking at bringing their skills to the collegiate scene in the US?

My best advice would be to do as much research as possible before making any decision. Talk to your peers, parents and anyone that might be able to offer any assistance before accepting any offers. Have a look at the history of the programme, the academic standing of the college and past players. These are all little snippets of information that will help you in the long run.

It's extremely difficult to find any two people who have had the same experience in college, so many student / athletes have different priorities when choosing their college. Ask as much as possible! Advice when choosing the right programme for you is key.

And finally, write a list of what you want from your college experience and what your reasoning and priorities are during your time in the US.

What has the future got in store for you now Lisa and what are your aspirations moving forward?

This past year I've worked as a player manager for Modest Golf Management. This is the company that I signed with when I turned professional. The main aspect I looked for in a management company was that their goals align with mine. The company is relatively new and has strong ties to Ireland which is very important for me. We both started our journeys around the same time so when I decided last year to step away from playing competitive golf it was definitely a natural transition for me.

The company is definitely trying to grow the women's side of the game as much as possible and they've been really progressive with this since I joined the team.

Golf has certainly given me some fantastic moments throughout my time playing the sport and it's a sport for life. Anything I can do to help promote the game and help young girls especially, is something that I take great pride in.

Lisa Maguire Golf
Lisa Maguire



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