Leona Maguire is the first Irish golfer to win the LPGA

Leona Maguire pictured after her victory on the LPGA Tour (Photo: LPGA)

Leona Maguire made history by becoming the first Irish woman to win the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.

Maguire edged American Lexi Thompson, closing with a 5-under 67 for a three-time victory in the LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony in February.

Speaking shortly after his victory, Maguire described the events as “a bit surreal”.

“It’s been 17 years in the making, and we wonder if it’s going to happen one day,” she continued in the press interview. “I’m really proud of the way I played all week, especially today. Dermot (Byrne) was amazing on the sack. … Probably more relief now than anything.

The Co. Cavan native has broken records throughout her amateur and professional career. The 27-year-old holds the record for the lowest score ever in the final round of a major, by both men and women. With a score of 61, she also has the lowest score in the history of the sport’s major Grand Slam tournaments.

Prior to turning pro in 2018, Maguire was ranked No. 1 in the World Women’s Amateur Golf Rankings for a record 135 total weeks.

Last year Maguire became the first Irish woman to play in the Solheim Cup and broke the all-time record with a total of 4.5 points. The feat, the first in Solheim Cup or Ryder Cup history, helped Team Europe to a 15-13 win.

Maguire’s main competition growing up came from her twin sister Lisa, who retired from professional golf in 2019. Both sisters attended Duke University in North Carolina and competed at the college level before turning pro and to sign with singer Niall Horan Modest!’s golf management company.

Horan joined big names in the Irish golf community to congratulate Maguire on his historic victory.

The Mullingar singer tweeted “Yesssssss!!! First Irishwoman to win on @LPGA. I couldn’t be more proud of you Leona. Incredible performance.

Padraig Harrington also took to social media to celebrate his fellow Irish golfer’s victory. “Thrilled for @leona_maguire, no one deserves it more. Years of hard work and pressure contributed to this victory. Leona leads the way in all of Irish golf. Glad for Dermot Byrne on the bag too.

Shane Lowry congratulated Maguire and Byrne, his former caddy, for the momentous achievement. “I’m delighted for Leona and also delighted for Dermot, but what a performance from Leona. “She was the world’s number one amateur for three years and to be the first woman of Irish descent to win on the LPGA Tour is exceptional, and I’m so happy for her,” Lowry said, after finishing 14th in the Saudi International…

Lowry described Maguire’s achievement as “another huge boost for women’s golf in Ireland”.

Seamus Power revealed to Irish Golfer that he was in touch with Maguire after his victory. The Waterford golfer added: “I’m not surprised. It’s amazing for her to be Ireland’s first LPGA winner. I have nothing but good things to say about her.

Chairman Michael D. Higgins joined in the praise online, tweeting: “Congratulations to @leona_maguire on her historic achievement in becoming the first Irish @LPGA Tour winner at the Drive On Championship. Another fantastic Irish sportswoman leading the way at international level.

Former Galway rugby players tackle Trans-Atlantic Row

Two former rugby players will embark on a record-breaking trip across the Atlantic in May.

Damian Browne and Fergus Farrell during a training session (Photo: Emilija Jefremova via Twitter)

Browne already sailed a solo line in the Atlantic in 2018, totaling 62 days, six hours and 25 minutes at sea. Hoping to recreate his adventure, Browne began planning a transatlantic line but this time he wanted company.

“I just loved my last experience it was everything I wanted and so much more so I knew I would do another one and thought it wouldn’t be amazing to be able to row in your own town and I didn’t want to do another solo,” he told the Irish Independent.

So, Browne thought of Farrell. After a work accident left Farrell paralyzed from the waist down, he became determined to walk again and in just two years, he completed a 206km trek from Galway to Dublin.

The couple plan to row around the clock taking shifts and sleeping in intervals. They will use filtered seawater and solar-powered equipment to boil their freeze-dried rations during the 3,000-mile trip.

The couple pays for shipping through an online crowdfunding page. For more details, visit: https://www.projectempower.ie/

Damian Browne and Fergus Farrell, who met while playing for Galwegians RFC, will row for 55 days from New York to Galway.

Doctor On Team Ireland makes history at the Winter Olympics

Dr. Elsa Desmond pictured after her Olympic appearance (Photo: Elsa Desmond/ Twitter)

Elsa Desmond, the first-ever member of the Irish team to compete in luge, finished without a medal but returned to work as a doctor in the UK, proud of her historic performance and rightly so.

Desmond, who was seen beaming through her green Team Ireland visor, spoke to ABC News about what becoming an Olympian meant to her.

“As the founder of the modern Olympics said, ‘It’s not who wins, it’s the fight to get there,'” Desmond said. “And that was my fight. I gave everything to get here. And I think everyone has their own story, everyone has their own journey, everyone makes sacrifices in different ways and fights different battles.

And Desmond’s fight was inspiring. Qualified to represent the Emerald Isle through her grandparents, Desmond didn’t let the minor detail that Ireland had no luge federation stop her Olympic dream. And in a true spirit of “fighting to get there”, she herself created a federation.

The essential worker has balanced her professional life and her Olympic dream with the help of her now passionate luge colleagues at Southend University Hospital in the UK.

During his training, Desmond took online exams to complete his studies at various hotels. Other competitors in the sport often stayed next door. “I had to stick signs on my door saying ‘Do Not Disturb, Exam In Progress’ in about six different languages,” Desmond told ABC News.

After completing her first Olympic race on February 8, Desmond set her sights on Milan 2026. In the meantime, she has already returned to her job of saving lives.

Waterford woman sets Irish freediving record

Kathleen Macdonald, from Waterford City, was ranked number one in Ireland for freediving, with a time of 6 minutes 12 seconds.

Freediver Kathy Macdonald (Photo courtesy Kathy Macdonald)

Kathleen started freediving, the sport of diving without breathing apparatus, just 18 months ago and has already broken 10 national records.

During the first Covid lockdown in Ireland, Kathleen’s mother who lives in Greece had a relapse of cancer and Kathleen flew there to be with her. It was there that she contacted One Breath Freediving in Athens looking for a Covid-friendly outdoor sport. Kathleen had already taken a one-day course in the Philippines in 2015.

Accustomed to adventure, Kathleen has reached the base camp of Mount Everest, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and even accidentally reached the summit of Mount Toubkal during a “quiet walk” in the Atlas Mountains.

“I think I was always looking for something, but I never knew what it was,” said Kathleen, who works as a lawyer in Dublin. She continued her training in the Irish capital at the pool where she had signed up for swimming lessons just before the pandemic.

“The irony isn’t lost on me, but it just goes to show that it’s never too late to try something new,” she said. Talking about her personal best time, Kathy said: “those extra seconds after the 6 minutes really matter: I went from 2 minutes to 3 minutes to 4 and a half to 5 and a half some months, but it was only after having reached the 6th minute, you are really pushing your body and mind to its limits.

Kathy explained that the ocean floor provided refuge for her mental health. “For me it’s mindfulness using a breath and you come back to the surface calm and free, you’ve cleared your mind of all thoughts, lowered your heart rate to adapt underwater and trusted your body to allow you to go to depths where you would like I don’t normally think it’s possible to go there.

Kathy plans to compete in freediving competitions in Greece and the Bahamas this year. You can follow his journey here.♦