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Maguire twins guide Duke women's golf into NCAA Championship

The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. — Rodd Baxley The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

May 16--Dan Brooks has seen his share of All-Americans come through Durham in his 34 seasons as head coach of the Duke women's golf team.

Brooks, the all-time winningest women's golf coach in Division I history with 133 tournament wins and six national titles, puts the Maguire sisters in a league of their own.

"Both of them, Leona and Lisa, are the hardest workers that we've ever had in all of these years," Brooks said. "If I had them all in a group from 34 years standing here, I'd say that to them all. These two have worked harder than everybody."

A pair of twin sisters from Cavan, Ireland, the Maguires have helped Brooks's latest Duke squad earn its 30th trip to the NCAA Championships.

In search of their seventh national title, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils will begin the six-day event Friday at Karsten Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Leona and Lisa will lead a five-player Duke lineup that includes Virginia Elena Carta, Ana Belac and Jaravee Boonchant.

Leona, a two-time National Player of the Year and three-time ACC champion, has logged three victories on the season. She has totaled a 70.40 stroke average to go along with nine top-10 finishes and 10 rounds in the 60s.

Lisa, who has improved her stroke average to 75.73 in her final year with the program, is coming off her best finish of the season -- a tie for 37th at the NCAA Madison Regional.

"If you want to know why Leona is so good, she gets after it," Brooks said. "She's very talented, but you're adding talent to an incredible amount of hard work and a very, sort of honest, mature approach to her game."

Leona's accomplishments over the course of her golf career seem endless, but a pair of runner-up finishes in three NCAA championship appearances keep her fire ignited. On both of those occasions, she finished one shot behind the champion.

It's the one void on her impressive resume, which includes a tie for 21st in the 2016 Rio Olympics and a tie for 25th as the low amateur in the 2016 Women's British Open.

She twice played at the LPGA Q School, where she could have earned her tour card and turned professional. Both times, she stopped short and returned to Duke.

"Obviously, I'd like to finish it off with a national title," she said. "That's kinda the one thing that's missing. It'd be nice to go out on a high and sort of put that cherry on top. I wanted to honor that commitment that I made to coach and our team. I want to win a national title, so here I am four years later hopefully trying to do that (this) week."

Lisa echoed her sister's remarks.

"It's been an amazing experience. ... we want to end it the best way possible," she said. "It's one of the trophies we don't have right now, so to finish our four years with a national championship would be a dream come true."

The Blue Devils will have that chance thanks to a win in the Madision Regional, which was their 10th regional title as a program. They will take that same lineup to Oklahoma, a place where Duke has claimed a pair of national titles.

"We hope that (this) week we're playing the best we can," Brooks said. "I like the fact that we came out of regionals with some pretty clear ideas on what to work on. You could maybe get lucky and have four players playing great -- and everything they do is great all through regionals and nationals -- but the odds are sort of against you on that. You need five because not everybody is going to be at their very best every day."

Leona is confident this group has what it takes to reach the pinnacle.

"It's my favorite group I've been a part of," she said.

"We all get along incredibly well both on and off the golf course. It's like family. These are some of my best friends, these girls. I've got one sister on the team but I might as well have four. I think everybody just wants to see everybody else do well. I think we're just working incredibly well together as a team to try and bring home that national title."

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at rbaxley@fayobserver.com or 486-3519.

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