PGA Professional Shane O’Grady: Moulding a Solheim Cup star

PGA Professional Shane O’Grady: Moulding a Solheim Cup star


“Yeah.” That was Shane O’Grady’s response when asked did he always see Leona Maguire developing and blossoming into the world class player she is today.

“I have been in her company since she was very young and she has been doing incredible things,” said O’Grady who has been Maguire’s lifelong coach since taking herself and sister Lisa into his stable in Blackbush Golf Club in Dunshaughlin, County Meath when the twins were just eleven years of age.

“I remember a practice round in Killeen Castle shooting 29 off the men’s tees for the front nine, you don’t see that too often! I know it’s only practice but when you’re in that company you think that it’s special.”

O’Grady has been by the side of the Cavan native ever since as she progressed through the amateur ranks, holding the world number one spot for three years before turning professional, earning her LPGA Tour card, making her Solheim Cup debut and becoming the first Irish winner on the LPGA Tour. 

It was a journey that many knew she was destined for but took slightly longer than anticipated. However, O’Grady and Maguire always stuck to the process they had laid out since she was 11 and he had no doubt the 28-year-old would strike when the time was right. 

“I think it’s something that you’ll hear Leona talking about, every stage since she was 11 there was a process of what we wanted to do in every aspect of the game to get to that level and the foundations are there that if we get to the top you’re not having to find when you get there, it’s all about fine tuning so that technique has been put in since she was eleven or twelve years of age. 

“Repetition. It’s consistency of shot, every aspect is strong that’s what she’s always worked on. No strength or weakness, everything is the same. Everything has to be strong to compete at that level, the LPGA level is like a super league, they’re so good we don’t see enough of it on television but you go to an event and they are unbelievably good. To be where she is now on the money list in America is incredible. 

“You can’t get to that level until you reach the next level, you need to win at each level and go from there to there. Golf is a confidence game, belief systems. It’s very hard to go from here to there and really believe it, but if you win at every level deep down you will believe you belong there.” 

European eyes will of course be on Maguire this month as she looks to help Suzann Pettersen’s European Team to a historic third successive Solheim Cup win in Finca Cortesin.

Maguire will be expected to be one of the main protagonists for Europe after a record-breaking performance as a rookie two years ago in Ohio where she won four and a half points out of five for Catriona Matthew’s side.

Maguire has had a stellar season to date which included breaking into the top-10 in the world rankings for the first time. So, ahead of her second Solheim Cup appearance, O’Grady has no grand designs on making any dramatic changes to her swing after spending plenty of time at home with her.

“Her schedule this year was set so we knew where she was breaking off. This summer she has been home a long time since Evian so with the way Galgorm (ISPS Handa) and Dromoland (Women’s Irish Open) fell she missed quite a lot of the schedule on the LPGA Tour, so she will be at home until Solheim, it didn’t make sense to fly back so she has been taking it easy. I’ll see her once next week and then she’ll be ready to go,” O’Grady says.

“She has played very well for a couple of months now so there’s not a lot of work to be done, it’s about fine tuning it and fixing things.”

The Galway man frequently travels over to America for in-person coaching sessions with Maguire in between tournament weeks when he isn’t dialling in virtually.

The late summer stretch saw Maguire spend an extended period in Ireland for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational and the KPMG Women’s Irish Open and O’Grady doesn’t try to change too much when she is in a busy stretch of tournaments.

“It’s great to be able to see her up close at Galgorm and Dromoland so when she goes to those tournaments I meet her on the Monday and we have a practice round. She had huge media duties in Dromoland and it’s not until you are with her that you realise how much commitment she has with media, fans wanting selfies, it’s not a normal week. It’s mentally tough for her and then everyone expects her to win.

“On Monday we play nine holes then on Tuesday we would work on the strategy of the course. What I see at the tournament I save anything I see for the following week, when she is in tournament mode it’s very seldom we tweak much once it starts.

“She comes home a lot and we might spend a day in Black Bush here in Dunshauglin or she might come to The K Club. She generally comes here to me, and the members have been very good to her they leave her be they are used to seeing her.”

The preparation Stateside is slightly different however. O’Grady will take a pre-season trip and then reconvene with Maguire after a couple of months when she is on a rest period.

Maguire picked up her second LPGA Tour win at the Meijer Classic earlier this year, just a few days after seeing her coach!

“When I go out to America I'll go out pre-season for five or six days then I'll meet her five weeks into the season and she will take a break. This year I met her in Liberty National on the Sunday at the Mizuho Americas Open. We flew down to Orlando to Lake Nona until Thursday evening and she went to Meijer on Saturday and went and won, so that was good prep!

“I came out for Baltusrol to meet her but she had won on Sunday so she spent Monday speaking to the press. Her schedule from Monday was hectic after winning which interferes with your prep and you are very tired. That’s generally how I prepare with her.”

Of course, O’Grady still has many young aspiring golfers in his stable including Irish panel players Lauren Walsh and Olivia Costello as well as the Black Bush members so when he is busy tending to their needs he is just a WhatsApp message away from Maguire to tweak something in her swing.

“We are doing it for a long time so she sends me a WhatsApp video on a Monday and if I do notice anything it’s very simple and easily fixable. Without being there I know if she is aiming slightly left or right of target by the angle I can see the swing is working at so it’s quite easy with technology to be there on the spot.

“She has a very easy swing and it’s very low maintenance so it’s all about fine tuning it with the level she is aspiring to play to. It’s fine margins from where she is now to number one in the world and that’s where we are constantly aspiring to get to.”

O’Grady’s best advice for Maguire is simple. Routine, routine, routine. “Most elite players won’t play with a swing thought it’s very much dialled in with the routine with repetitions. You react to the target which goes right through to the short game and the whole lot. We look at everything but once we step out on to the golf course there are no swing thoughts just react to the target. My core belief is that for elite level under pressure it has to be a reaction rather than swing thought.”

Here's hoping that Maguire can go on and produce another stellar performance at the Solheim Cup and maybe get another LPGA win under her belt soon too.


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