Royal County Down and Tandragee amateur Olivia Mehaffey finds herself just two shots back of the lead after a brilliant fightback on day three of the Symetra Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic.
Rounds of 69 and 64 over the first two days propelled the Arizona State star to the front at 11-under par on debut, Mehaffey taking full advantage of an invite to Longbow Golf Club where she fired a school-record 62 for ASU just last week at the Clover Cup.
Two clear ahead of moving day in Mesa, Mehaffey ground out a one-under par round of 71 on Saturday, battling back from a two-over par front nine with three terrific birdies in succession from the 13th in a homeward half of 33 to leave her at minus-12 for the tournament, just two strokes back of Ruixin Liu’s lead.
“It kind of feels like home for me, so it feels like I am playing in Ireland and kind of have my family here,” Mehaffey reflected, who has veteran LPGA Tour caddie and great friend Davy Jones on the bag this week to help in that regard.
“It’s nice to see some familiar faces and hear them clap loud, which is really nice. I kind of struggled on the front side today because I wasn’t present, and I was thinking a little bit away from where I should be. I just want to go out tomorrow and have fun and really enjoy this moment.”
The four-time All-American Sun Devil can go out on Sunday safe in the knowledge that there’ll likely be many more like it when she turns to the pro ranks after five incredible years with ASU. An ever-present inside the world’s top-20 on the amateur rankings, Mehaffey made her first Major cut amongst the professionals at the ANA last year and is soaking up this week’s experience with one eye on a pro career that’s edging ever closer.
“It’s amazing, I am going to turn pro in just a couple of months,” she said. “I wanted to get as much experience as I could and to have this opportunity is amazing. I am so grateful to Carlisle Companies for giving me the invite. The more I can play with the pros the more I can learn about my game.”
No doubt Mehaffey will still be eyeing a Shane Lowry-esque win as an amateur amongst the pros, also taking inspiration from former Sun Devil Phil Mickelson who won a professional event while still in college at ASU. To do that, she’ll need to pass Chinese star Liu who heads into the final round of the inaugural Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic looking to become a four-time winner. After posting a 5-under 67 that included five birdies and no bogeys on Saturday, Liu recalled one constant presence.
“My dad has been with me for every win on the Symetra Tour,” said Liu. “It’s really nice to have him here and I really trust him. It’s comfortable to have him out here with me.”
In 2018, Liu claimed three wins, which lead her to earn her LPGA Tour card for 2019. She made six cuts in 20 starts as a 2019 LPGA rookie with a season best finish T11 at the Marathon Classic presented by Dana. Liu lost the status she had hoped to maintain and returned to the Symetra Tour last season where she won the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. Today, she looks to channel her experience to take home another title.
“I’ve done this before. I was in this position a few years ago. No matter what happens tomorrow I think I will stay patient and do my best,” said Liu, who reserved special praise for her playing partner Mehaffey.
“Today, the beginning was a little bit of struggle because my swing was not on point. Thank goodness my putter saved me, especially on hole No. 2. I didn’t think that much about results today because I played with Olivia and she is a really good player.”
Mehaffey gets her final round underway at 17.29 Irish time. Best of luck Olivia!
Full scoring HERE