Only a disastrous final round will deny Olivia Mehaffey a place in the Final Stage of Ladies European Tour Q-School in La Manga as she continued her fine form at the Spanish resort.
The 24-year-old moved up to second place on the leaderboard after a three-under 70 in her third round at the South Course to reach six-under for the week, three shots back of Sweden’s Lisa Pettersson.
With the top-75 and ties all qualifying for next week’s Final Stage – also at La Manga – it means Mehaffey has a huge 16-shot buffer as the cut currently lies at 10-over.
She shouldn’t even be thinking about the cut line, though, and instead the Down woman will be aiming to put in another big performance in Sunday’s final round to reach the Final Stage with some momentum.
After missing out on a place on the LPGA Tour next season having crashed out of Q-School at the Second Stage, this has been an excellent response, along with dealing with the devastation of father Philip’s passing from cancer last week.
Mehaffey certainly found some momentum on Saturday as, bar one hole, she was flawless in carding three birdies and an eagle to move up the leaderboard with her best round of the week to par thus far.
The former Arizona State star birdied her opening hole and then took advantage of the par-fives on the front nine by adding an eagle on the fourth and rounding off her front half with a birdie at the ninth.
Another came on the 13th, another par-five, and had her briefly in the lead, but a double-bogey on the 15th dropped her back into solo second behind Pettersson, who finished with three birdies in her last five holes to pull away at nine-under.
It was not such a good moving day for Clandeboye’s Victoria Craig, however, as the 24-year-old dropped outside the top-75 and will need a big final round to keep her hopes alive for sticking around next week.
Five bogeys in her final six holes saw Craig tumble down the leaderboard and eventually sign for a seven-over 78 on the North Course, which has her 12-over for the week, two outside the cut line as it stands.
Her one birdie came at the seventh, after bogeys at the fourth, fifth and eighth, but a disastrous end to her day means she is on the outside looking in going into the closing day.
Of the top-75 that go into next week’s five-round Final Stage, only the top-20 receive full category 11 status on the Ladies European Tour next season.