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Leona's praise for real heroes

Maguire in call for sport to reward our frontline staff

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RISING STAR: Irish professional golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire. Davy, Ireland’s leading wealth management provider, continues to back world class Irish talent and is committed to supporting Leona through her professional career and personal life. Photo: Conor McCabe

RISING STAR: Irish professional golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire. Davy, Ireland’s leading wealth management provider, continues to back world class Irish talent and is committed to supporting Leona through her professional career and personal life. Photo: Conor McCabe

RISING STAR: Irish professional golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire. Davy, Ireland’s leading wealth management provider, continues to back world class Irish talent and is committed to supporting Leona through her professional career and personal life. Photo: Conor McCabe

In the midst of having her own first year on the LPGA tour thrown into turmoil, young Irish golfer Leona Maguire wants her sport, and other sports, to think of the real heroes in the battle against the coronavirus.

She's suggesting that when international sport finally finds its legs again, medical staff and first responders should be treated well, in terms of corporate hospitality and tickets and the rest of it.

"I think we're learning now who the real heroes are," said the Cavan girl in a conference call hosted by her sponsors Davy Stockbrokers yesterday, "and they are not sports people like me. I know that the next time I miss a three-foot putt I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

"There are people all around the world today with much bigger problems than a missed putt will ever be.

"And maybe we could look after those doctors and nurses very well when times change. The people running and sponsoring golf tournaments, and other sports, could look at that."

It might be a while though, before that could happen with international golf put on hold. "The LPGA have told us there's a tournament on in Tampa, Florida, in May and that's what I'm working towards until I hear otherwise.

"Of course there has to be a doubt about it going ahead, and the ones immediately after it, but that's the way we have to plan right now." But unlike GAA or horse racing or the League of Ireland, all of which can resume as soon as the Irish Government gives the ok, international sport needs people to be able to cross borders freely.

"Yes," says the 25-year-old, "visas are a huge issue for professional golfers. I have to be sure that, as an Irish citizen, I can get past passport control at a country's border by having a visa if I need one.

"Now if some countries start denying visas to citizens of certain countries because of coronavirus ... " Leona doesn't even answer the question, but just raising it must send a shiver down the spines of those organising all the sports where the elite athletes normally move around the world without the slightest issue.

For now, Leona has gone back to the future at home in Cavan. "My brother is doing the Leaving Cert this year, and it is like six years ago when I did it.

"Dad has got a few driving nets down from the attic and we've rolled out the putting mats and I'm practising away just like I used to try and do a bit while studying for the Leaving.

"There is a field out the back of the house, where I can hit a seven iron or less, walk up the field, collect the balls, and do it all over again. But I can't hit woods there or anything like that."

So how else does she pass the time since what should have been the finest golf season of her life, her first on the LPGA Tour, ran into the brick wall of the coronavirus?

"Well, there's definitely been a bit of Netflix, but I'm conscious of not running out of enough movies and shows so that when we do go back on the road, there'll be nothing to watch.

"I'm nearly finished 'The Tiger King' and watching some documentaries. There's been a lot of board games, and card games, going on here at home. It's like those few days after Christmas every year. All the board games and cards coming out. I'm trying not to look at the news too much, just keeping an eye out for updates, but at the same time trying not to check Twitter and the news too often. It'll be a while before all of this passes, so, like everyone cooped up, it's about trying to stay sane."

With a fourth-place finish, at the Vic Open in Australia in January, already on her first year card, Leona was up and running well in her debut season. Now she waits patiently for the season to resume.