An emotional Olivia Mehaffey savoured every minute of her first competitive tournament as a professional on home soil but after completing a top-20 finish at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, her attention now turns to Qualifying School and earning some status on Tour.
The Tandragee and Royal County Down star signed off with a birdie in a three-under par final round 70 at Galgorm Castle for an eight-under par four-round total. The Northern Irishwoman, who turned professional following a decorated amateur career at Arizona State, lived up to her lofty reputation, delighting home crowds with five birdies on Sunday in her tie for 17th.
“It was good – it was enjoyable,” said Mehaffey, who made her pro debut on the Symetra Tour back in May. “I feel like I made some good birdies and I had some good chances that I didn’t take, but overall a good day. I played solid.
“I was definitely more relaxed today. My goal for the day was to enjoy it, and I enjoyed it. I had so many people I knew in the crowds – my family, my friends – and just walking up 18 there was very special to me.
“I almost had a tear in my eye because they’ve supported me since I was so young, so to do this in front of them was very special. It’s very nice to know how much support I have.”
After enjoying a few invites as her fledgling pro career gets off the ground, Mehaffey admits that all roads now point to Q-School as she looks to lock down status Stateside before ramping up her number of competitive rounds in paid ranks.
“Focus is on Q-School,” she said, with Stage One set for Rancho Mirage from August 19. “I’ll have a week at home which will be nice, I only got home last week so I’ll spend time with my family and friends, practice and get ready for Q-School when I head back to the States.
“My priority is Q-School and I’m going to tailor everything around that. I might do a few LPGA Monday qualifiers, I might try and ask for some invites on the Symetra or LET, but my priority is Q-School, so I’m going to plan everything around that.”
However, far from money driven ass he sets her sights on the upper echelons of the paid circuit, Mehaffey insists that it’s not the paycheque at week’s end that made this pro home debut so sweet, rather the opportunity to play so well in front of family and friends who have supported her since the beginning.
“It’s funny, I’ve got amazing sponsors and they allow me to do what I do, and I can go out and play relaxed because I’ve got their backing,” she added.
“Honestly, I know this sounds bad but I don’t look at the money, all I care about is them being here and playing well in front of them and that means more to me than any paycheque.”
As for the winning of the World Invitational, Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn beat USA’s Emma Talley on the second playoff hole after the pair couldn’t be separated after finishing at 16-under par in regulation play. It was Anannarukarn’s first Rolex win and one that won’t be sinking in any time soon:
“Honestly, just speechless,” she said. “I really want to thank everyone along the way. Those who believed in me from the very beginning. I wouldn’t have come this far without them.”
— LPGA (@LPGA) August 1, 2021