It seemed as the Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying School approached last fall that Duke junior Leona Maguire was poised to start her professional career.
The native of Ireland had led Great Britain & Ireland to a win over the United States in the Curtis Cup Match at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club near Dublin. She was the low amateur in the Ricoh Women’s British Open, finishing tied for 25th at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Maguire, again proudly representing Ireland, finished tied for 21st in a field filled with professional players at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and helped her country earn a bronze medal at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico.
There wasn’t a whole lot left to prove. But Maguire, after much consultation with just about anybody she could seek advice from, withdrew from LPGA Qualifying School on the eve of the Final Stage. She would not only be back for the rest of her junior year at Duke, she intended to play her whole senior year and graduate in Durham before moving on to professional golf.
Saturday, Maguire fired a 2-under-par 70 in the final round of the ACC Championship at the Reserve Golf Club of Pawleys Island’s Beach Course to capture her second individual title and lead the Blue Devils, No. 10 in the latest Golfstat rankings, to their first team title since 2014, a year in which they went on to win the NCAA crown.
Maguire, the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, finished with a 6-under 210 total over the 6,192-yard, par-72 Beach Course layout. She had opened with a 4-under 68 and matched par in the second round with a 72 before her final-round 70 gave her a two-shot margin of victory over Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo. Maguire added the title to the one she won in 2015 as a freshman.
The steady Kupcho added a 1-under 71 to her earlier rounds of 70 and 71 to earn runnerup honors for the second straight year.
Maguire led Duke to a final round of 1-over 289 as the Blue Devils capped a wire-to-wire run to the team title. Duke finished with a 5-under 859 total, nine shots better than No. 4 Florida State, which also had a final-round 289 for a 4-over 868 total.
No. 19 Miami had the day’s best round, an even-par 288, to finish third at 10-over 874. It was a little bit of a disappointing final round of 297 for North Carolina, but the No. 38 Tar Heels ended up with a solid fourth-place finish at 12-over 876. No. 41 Clemson finished fifth, a final-round 298 giving the Tigers an 877 total, a shot behind North Carolina.
No. 65 Notre Dame had a final-round 306 and finished tied for ninth with No. 78 Boston College at 901. Injury-depleted Wake Forest, ranked 15th, finished last in the 12-team field with a final-round 311 and a 931 total.
Sandy Choi, a senior from South Korea who was a freshman on Duke’s 2014 ACC and NCAA title team, backed up Maguire as a final round of 1-under 71 enabled her to finish among four players tied for fourth at 1-under 215.
Also for the Blue Devils, Ana Belac, a freshman from Slovenia, finished tied for 14th at 2-over 218 after a final-round 74 and sophomore Virginia Elena Carta, the reigning NCAA individual champion from Italy, and Gurbani Singh, a junior from India, finished tied for 17th at 3-over 219. Carta had a final-round 75 while Singh posted a 74.
North Carolina was led by Leslie Cloots, a senior from Belgium who was also part of that group tied for fourth at 1-under 215 after carding a 1-under 71 in the final round.
Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md., also earned a top-10 finish as she matched par in the final round with a 72 to end up tied for eighth at even-par 216.
Freshman Brynn Walker, the 2014 and 2015 PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor, finished alone in 27th at 6-over 222 after a final round of 3-over 75. She had the best finish of the three former PIAA champions in the field. Notre Dame sophomore Isabella DiLisio, the 2013 state champ at Mount St. Joseph, finished tied for 43rd at 229, and Wake Forest junior Erica Herr, the 2011 and 2012 state champ at Council Rock North, finished tied for 56th at 239.
Also for the Tar Heels, Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill., finished tied for 31st at 226 after a final-round 79 and Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn., finished 48th after a final-round 80.
Leading the way for Notre Dame was Emma Albrecht, a sophomore from Ormond Beach, Fla. who carded a final round of 1-over 73 to finish tied for 17th at 3-over 219. Jordan Ferreira, a senior from University Place, Wash., had a disappointing final-round 81 after starting with a pair of 73s to finish tied for 33rd at 227.
DiLisio, a Hatfield resident, had her best round of the tournament, a 2-over 74, to get to 229. Maddie Rose Hamilton, a sophomore from Louisville, Ky., finished 49th at 235 with a final-round 78. DiLisio’s Mount St. Joseph teammate, junior Alison Snakard of Collegeville, couldn’t sustain the great start she had with an opening-round 73 as she posted a pair of 82s to finish 53rd at 237.
Miami’s Delfina Acosta, a senior from Argentina, had the day’s best round Saturday, a 4-under 68, to finish alone in third place at 3-under 213.
Joining Duke’s Singh and North Carolina’s Cloots in the group tied for fourth at 1-under 215 were Louisville’s Olivia Cason, a sophomore from Owensboro, Ky., and Florida State’s Lydia Gumm, a senior from Radcliff, Ky. Both finished up with a 1-under 71 in the final round.
Wake Forest’s Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas, slipped a little with a final-round 74, but still finished tied for eighth at even-par 216. New Hope’s Herr struggled at the Beach Course, finishing up with a 79.
The teams in the ACC field have a long wait until the announcement of the NCAA regional bids Thursday, April 27, but a lot of those teams should get to extend their seasons when the regionals get under way May 8.
Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey, a former LPGA touring pro, sounded hopeful on the Wake Forest website that she can get her two injured Demon Deacons, Antonia Eberhard, a sophomore from Germany, and freshman Sierra Brooks, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur runnerup from Sorrento, Fla., healthy in time for the regionals. Dailey also hinted that Herr wasn’t 100 percent at Pawleys Island.
The addition of a healthy Eberhard, Brooks and Herr to the pair of Kupcho and Sims would make Wake Forest resemble the top-15 team it has been most of the season.