Olivia Mehaffey is more motivated than ever to make her mark on the women’s professional game after a year that promised so much ended in heartache for the 24-year old.
Mehaffey may have missed out on a full Ladies European Tour card after double-bogeying her final hole at LET Q-School but her disappointment on the course paled in comparison to her pain off it having lost her father, Phillip to cancer prior to flying out to qualifying school.
Under the circumstances, her efforts at La Manga were monumental and while she put on a brave face to fulfil her Dad’s dying wish, inside that experience of playing for her future while her present fell apart at times proved too much to bear.
“I had a really rough year last year,” Mehaffey told media on a Zoom call from her base in Arizona for the launch of Golf Ireland’s five-year ‘Golf For Everyone’ strategy.
“I think for the first time in my life playing at an event, the golf wasn’t the important thing. I hadn’t touched a club the week going up to it. I was at home every day.
“I knew I hadn’t prepared. I wasn’t in a good place mentally. I would come off the golf course and to me golf wasn’t important, but I think the hardest thing for me that week was people would come up to me and say like, ‘how’s your family?’ and I’m like ‘Don’t cry… don’t lose it’ … so yeah, it was tough.
“It would have been a little bit easier if I had finished better and obviously got a full card but yeah, it was really tough and I’m pretty proud of myself to go there and do that under the circumstances.”
And so she should be. Mehaffey put in a courageous performance that guarantees the Tandragee star conditional status on the LET Tour. She also holds limited status on the newly-named Epson Tour – formerly the Symetra – and having put in a mammoth amount of work since the turn of the new year, Mehaffey’s spark is returning, with the light at the end of the tunnel finally coming into view.
“It’s been nice to come back and get into a routine and get back to work, and I’m very excited for this season,” she says. “I’ve had a great first month back here training, and I think for the first time in a while, I feel quite optimistic about this year and I’m very excited for it.
“It’s going to be a little bit up in the air,” she says with regards to her schedule.
“I sat down with my coach and we were talking about planning this year. I promised I wasn’t going to split myself between two tours. The Epson Tour and Ladies European Tour have really good incentives, from getting your card to getting through Q series. So, there are two things that I wanted to take advantage off.
“In terms of starting out, I’m going to play in one of my sponsor’s events in Arizona, and that’s very important for me, so that’s in March. I’m going to see how many Epson invites I can get in, there’s a reshuffle, I think at the end of May. So if I play decently I get some starts.
“Then I’m leaning towards focusing on Epson Tour and depending on how that all works out, then I might go to Europe. I have pretty good status in Europe, I will get into most events. I could go either way.”
Although her calendar remains unclear, one date sure to feature heavily on Mehaffey’s hit-list is the return of the Irish Women’s Open, set for a venue yet to be confirmed from September 22-25, along with another tee-time at the ISPS Handa World Invitational from August 11-14..
“I’m so excited that we have our Irish Open back,” she said. “I never got the opportunity to play as an amateur. I know Leona and Lisa [Maguire] did so I think they are top of my list and two events that I would love to be part of.
“I think that it was one of the most special events I have played [the ISPS Handa]. You know, normally it’s always like an event that you win that’s so memorable. Obviously, I didn’t win [she finished 17th] but I had a good week just having my family there and having so many familiar faces in the crowd. So I think the atmosphere, the vibe around the place is just so different.
“It’s something that I absolutely love and even Curtis Cup in Dun Laoghaire, I just loved being at home playing in front of a home fanbase, so I think it’s just different and it’s an incredible feeling.”