Playoff heartache for Mehaffey in US Women’s Open qualifying

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Olivia Mehaffey (Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Olivia Mehaffey missed out on a place at next month’s US Women’s Open after she was beaten in a playoff in Open Sectional Qualifying (Europe) in Buckinghamshire.

Mehaffey finished in a five-way tie for third meaning she entered a playoff to determine who secured the third and final place in Pine Needles on June 2-5.

The Tandragee native shot a 36-hole total of level-par on Monday but unfortunately she bowed out on the first extra hole meaning she couldn’t even secure one of the alternate spots on offer should there be any withdrawals.

Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow are already assured of places in the second major of the women’s season.

Welshwoman Lydia Hall was the last woman standing after five extra holes while Amelia Garvey (New Zealand) and talented Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen battled it out for the second alternate spot.

Buckinghamshire is undoubtedly a happy hunting ground for Hall who won the ISPS Handa British Masters at this venue in 2012.

“It means the world,” she said. “I’ve never played a US Women’s Open and it’s been a goal of mine for 15 years. After 41 holes today, a lot of 5-irons into that last hole, I’m really happy to get it done. I just hope to perform as well as I can, make the cut is the bottom line, but I’ll see the golf course and if it suits me and go from there.”

South Africa’s Nicole Garcia topped the qualifiers on five-under after rounds of 70 and 69 while Denmark’s Smilla Tarning Soenderby finished three shots back in second on two-under.

Garcia is set to make her third US Women’s Open appearance having previously come through sectional qualifying in Buckinghamshire in 2014.

“It feels really good. I have qualified here before so I had a good feeling and I’m looking forward to having another chance at the U.S. Open,” said Garcia, who had an injury plagued two years after a hip injury required surgery in 2020. “I’m a little bit nervous because last time I played the US Open it was my third event back after almost two years off. I love being at the US Open. You play against the best players in the world and learn from them. Hopefully this year will go a lot better.”

While Garcia has the experience of three Sunshine Tour wins under her belt there will be a sprinkle of youthful exuberance in Pine Needles in the shape of Soenderby who has only recently turned professional and the 21-year-old will make her major championship debut next month.

“It feels surreal. I was very, very calm in the first round and didn’t look at scoreboards or my phone in between the rounds. I went out in the afternoon and was a bit more nervous and tried a bit more. I managed to handle it well until the last two holes and then I got really nervous. I knew I was close. My caddie helped me to make the right decisions and rein it in a little. I played solid golf in the second round as well. I knew my golf was close to something very, very good.”

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