LAKE NONA, FLORIDA | Twenty-nine players will tee off at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Lake Nona, Florida this week. Over half of those players have spent time on the Epson Tour, the Road to the LPGA.
2019 Epson Tour graduate Leona Maguire headlines the list of alumnae as she competes at her home course, Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. Just last year, the 28-year-old was practicing at the tournament site and setting goals to come back in 2023 as a competitor. The Ireland native earned a spot in the Tournament of Champions after walking away from the 2022 LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony victorious.
Since becoming an LPGA Tour rookie in 2020, Maguire has finished in the top 10 on 14 occasions and credits her time on the Epson Tour for the smooth transition on the LPGA Tour.
“I think it was really helpful [to play on the Epson Tour]. I got my card in '19, won twice out there, and got used to all the travel and pro-ams and how to make a cut and contend on the weekend and all that,” said Maguire. “I learned a lot, and it sort of helped ease that transition from amateur or college golf to pro golf without having to go right into the deep end of the LPGA straight away.”
Now residing in Lake Nona, the former Duke University Blue Devil won’t travel far to compete amongst other LPGA Tour champions and well-known celebrities. But knowing the course like the back of her hand comes with its blessings and its curses.
“You don't want to put too much pressure on yourself, obviously, but I know the spots where to hit it. Doing that, actually hitting it there is another thing,” said Maguire. “It’s nice to not have to cram too much prep into the golf course this week. But it's playing quite a bit different than we would normally play it. The greens are running a lot faster and around the greens are shaved. They've set it up like a real, almost like a major setup out there.
“I think it eases off that I don't have to play 18 holes every day this week. I kind of know what to do around here. But at the same time, you also know all the spots where not to be, so sometimes knowing everything isn't a good idea, either. I've tried to treat it as much of a normal tournament as I possibly can but ultimately you just have to go out and play well, doesn't matter if it's your home course or not.”
In addition to Maguire, 12 other women competing this week have graduated from the Official Qualifying Tour of the LPGA. Nelly Korda (2016), Ally Ewing (2016), Celine Boutier (2017) and Patty Tavatanakit (2019) punched their ticket to the LPGA Tour through the coveted top-10 rankings at the end of the season. Four others, including 2022 Epson Tour and LPGA Tour champion Andrea Lee, have also competed on the Epson Tour.