Leona Maguire's golf career has gone in one direction — up.
After starring at Duke, Maguire signed with former "One Direction" singer Niall Horan's golf management company Modest! Golf.
Saturday, the former top amateur won her first LPGA Tour event, the Drive On Championship at Crown Colony Golf & Country Club in Fort Myers, by four strokes.
" I mean, it's a bit surreal," said Maguire, who won $225,000 of the $1.5 million purse. "It's been 17 years in the making, and you kind of wonder if it's ever going to happen. Just really proud of how I played all week, especially today."
— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) February 5, 2022
Maguire is the first winner of an LPGA Tour event in Fort Myers in 47 years. Sandra Haynie defeated Pat Bradley in a playoff at Lochmoor Country Club in the 1975 Greater Fort Myers Classic.
Horan was tweeting his support the past couple of days.
"Yesssssssss!!! First Irish woman to win @LPGA. Couldn't be prouder of you Leona. Incredible performance," Horan tweeted Saturday.
"He's been there right from when I turned pro," Maguire said. "Been a huge help in my management company. Yeah, Mark and Niall have been there since the start. My sister Lisa works with them as well, so it's nice to have people in the background looking out for my best interests.
"Niall has been trying to grow the game in Ireland in young girls, and hopefully this win today can help that as well."
LPGA Drive On Championship notebook: Players, caddies have fun playing a different sport
Southwest Florida golf: Leona Maguire, Marina Alex tied for second-round lead at LPGA Drive On
Maguire and Marina Alex started the day with a four-stroke lead over the rest of the field, but by the back nine, the 27-year-old Maguire was in control and on her way. She birdied No. 7, and added another from the pine straw on No. 8, followed up with two more on Nos. 10 and 11, and another on No. 13.
"That birdie on 7 and 8 as well out of the pine straw was huge for momentum making the turn, and then another two on 10 and 11," she said.
Maguire bogeyed the final hole to finish at 18-under 198.
"You say you want to enjoy it but it's hard until that sort of the final putt drops and you know it's for sure," she said. "You also worry about maybe the leaderboard being wrong or something like that, so you try not to do any of the math in your head or anything like that.
"I was trying to get to 20-under par, that was my goal regardless. A little disappointed to bogey the last, but it happens."
Maguire had come close to winning, with two second-place finishes on the tour last year, then went 4-0-1 to help the European team win the Solheim Cup in September. When she returned home from Solheim, she was given a hero's welcome, including a ride in a BMW gold convertible.
"I guess there is a week before I go home so be a little bit of a time to plan," Maguire said. "I don't think the weather in Ireland is quite right for riding around in a convertible as it was in September.
"I'm sure we'll figure something out. These wins don't happen very often. It's incredibly hard to win out here. These girls are so good. We'll definitely enjoy this win while it's here."
Lexi Thompson holed out for eagle on No. 10 to get within two, and birdied Nos. 11 and 13, but Maguire matched those and she didn't get any closer. She grabbed her back after a wayward tee shot on No. 16 that led to a bogey.
Thompson birdied the par-5 18th to finish alone in second. She had played with Maguire the past two days, so she knew she would be tough to catch.
"She's such an amazing player," Thompson said. "I got to play a lot with her out here obviously the last two days, but junior golf as well. Just she has an amazing talent and she's been striping it and made a lot of great putts the last two days, so I knew coming out there ... birdies had to be made to kind of track her down."
American Sarah Schmelzel shot an 8-under 64 to finish third at 14 under. Second-round co-leader Marina Alex, Stacy Lewis, Patty Tavatanakit, Xiyu Lin, and Brittany Altomare all tied for fourth at 13 under.
Maguire grew up playing with her twin sister Lisa, and ended up going to Duke. She held the No. 1 spot on the amateur golf rankings for a record 135 weeks. Maguire was a four-time WGCA First Team All-American, three-time ACC Player of the Year, two-time WGCA and ANNIKA National Player of the Year, two-time runner-up at the NCAA national championship for the Blue Devils.
Maguire actually almost started her professional career earlier, going through qualifying school in 2016 before deciding to return to Duke.
Maguire played on the now-Epson Tour after finishing her collegiate career, and won twice.
"I think I've worked my way up the levels every time," she said. "It's been a meticulous journey. I did it my way, the way I wanted to do it, with the help of my team around me."
Saturday, Maguire was happy to look back on that decision, with the trophy sitting right next to her.
"I'm pretty sure I'm right where I need to be right now," she said. "I mean, there is always should have, would have, could have. You don't know how things would've worked out. I'm glad I did what I did and it's led to this trophy sitting here beside me.
"I'm going to stick to my guns and keep doing what I'm doing."
Tuesday, Maguire wasn't as sure she could be the first Irishwoman to win. She played a birdie game against Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow and lost.
"I gave her $20 on Tuesday night," Maguire said. "I didn't think I would be sitting here."
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: LPGA Drive On Championship: Leona Maguire gets first win