Olivia Mehaffey will give up an invitation to compete at the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur after picking up an unexpected invite to compete amongst the stars of the female professional game at the ANA Inspiration.
The ANA Inspiration, golf’s first major championship of the year, announced five amateur invites for the 2020 Championship which will see Rolex Rankings No. 1, Jin Young Ko defend her title at Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage, Calif., on April 2 – 5.
The clash of dates means the Banbridge star and current world number 20 had to make a choice and after collecting a top-25 amongst the azaleas last year, she’s opted for a change of pace this April and the opportunity to step-up her development amongst the game’s best.
“I believe this is the right decision at this time in my career,” said Mehaffey to IrishGolfDesk. “I am excited to play with the best in the world and I am grateful for this opportunity.
“I had a great experience at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last year and it is one of the highlights of my career so far. It is a special week and although I won’t be there, I look forward to following along.”
Mehaffey, who will graduate from Arizona State in May, is one of a quintet of amateur players to benefit from a long-standing tradition at the year’s first Major:
“This is one of our favourite traditions at ANA Inspiration,” said Shigeru Hattori, ANA Senior Vice President of the Americas. “The tradition is crucial to growing the sport and fostering the dreams of young female golfers around the world. We’re proud to help each amateur invitee’s dream take flight as they play with the ladies of the LPGA Tour this April. “
The standout amateurs who will benefit from this long-standing tradition of inviting rising stars to gain invaluable major experience are:
Rose Zhang – Ranked No.1 on the ROLEX AJGA Rankings and No. 11 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Zhang won the ANA Junior Inspiration in 2018, qualifying for the 2018 ANA Inspiration, where she made the cut and finished a credible T60th. Due to graduate in 2021, she is verbally committed to Stanford.
Kaitlyn Papp – A junior at the University of Texas and 2019 WGCA First-Team All-American and 2018 Second-Team honouree, Papp was part of the winning U.S. Ping Junior Solheim Cup team in 2017 and is currently at No. 14 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Gabriela Ruffles – World No. 17 ranked amateur and a junior at the University of Southern California, Ruffles is the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur and North and South Amateur champion. In her sophomore season, she earned second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 honours.
Olivia Mehaffey – A three-time All-American Senior at Arizona State University, Mehaffey represented Great Britain & Ireland in the battle for the 2019 Astor Trophy and helped lead the 2016 Great Britain & Ireland team to the Curtis Cup victory after going 3-1-1. She earned the Irish Women’s Open Championship and the Welsh Ladies Open Stroke Play Championship in 2016. Mehaffey is ranked at No. 20 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Angelina Ye – A member of the Chinese National Team Member, Ye is a freshman at Stanford, the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion and runner-up in the 2019 AJGA Rolex Girls’ Invitational. She is ranked No. 26 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The final amateur invitation spot will go to the winner of this year’s prestigious ANA Junior Inspiration, an AJGA sanctioned 54-hole invitational that takes place the weekend prior to the ANA Inspiration. The field is made up of 48 of the best juniors from around the world who qualify through the ANA Priority Mileage Points system.
Zhang commented, “I am so happy to receive an invitation to play in the 2020 ANA Inspiration. I didn’t hesitate for a second as I really wanted to test my game with the professionals. My experience in the 2018 ANA Inspiration was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to have a second chance after everything I learned when I played in 2018.”
These talented amateurs will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of so many of the world’s current top players, who all started their major careers with the invaluable experience of being amateur invites at the ANA Inspiration. The former invitees list reads like a Who’s Who of women’s golf and includes the likes of Michelle Wie, Georgia Hall, Lydia Ko, Angel Yin, Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson Su Oh and Nelly Korda.