Olivia Mehaffey admits she over-extended herself in recent weeks with a relentless schedule contributing to mental fatigue that has seriously impacted her results.
Speaking at the exciting announcement of KPMG’s title sponsorship of the Women’s Irish Open for the next three years, Mehaffey, who’s playing her first full rookie season as a pro in 2022, opted to take two weeks away from the tour after missing five cuts in a row.
The global nature of the Ladies European Tour has seen the Royal County Down and Tandragee member jet from Arizona to South Africa to Australia to Thailand and right across Europe but as she chased improved status at the LET reshuffle, Mehaffey’s exploits soon took their toll.
“I feel like I’ve struggled a little bit off the golf course. I feel like I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I think that all caught up with me,” Mehaffey said.
“I did eight weeks in a row of travel from Arizona to South Africa to Australia to Thailand. So I think I did too much then and it caught up on me and things mentally crept in.
“Also, I feel like it’s a lot of learning. I’ll never play eight weeks in a row again and followed it up with six weeks in a row. I think you have to kind of make these mistakes yourself to learn from them. Even learning what it’s like to travel.
“You know, in amateur golf you’d never play as much as this. Even last year when I turned pro in the middle of the season, it was an invite here, an invite there, it was never a lot of continuous golf.
“I’m very happy that I’ve had this learning experience. It’s been nice to reset and be back at home and to spend some time with my family and feel like a normal human being for a while.”
Mehaffey secured legendary status for herself at Arizona State as an amateur before making the plunge to the pro circuit. Used to competing at the upper end of leaderboards and winning, after a bright start, Mehaffey has all too often found herself at the wrong side of the cut-mark in paid company and she admits the transition to professional golf has proven more difficult than she ever imagined.
“I’m not going to lie, professional golf is a lot harder than I thought,” Mehaffey said.
“And it’s not the golf side of things, it’s the travel, playing week-in, week-out. I think there’s a lot of things you have to learn and you can’t learn from people telling you ‘you should do this, you should do that’ because I think you have to make the mistakes yourself and really live through it.
“I think it’s hard when you go into the professional game, you start from scratch. Your amateur career is kind of forgotten but you know what you’re capable of doing. Even throughout the rough patch I’ve been on over the last few weeks, I don’t doubt that it’s not going to come good. You keep working at these things.
“If you look at anybody throughout their professional career, they all have ups and downs and they go through really good stretches and you have to make the most of those. And you go through some really rough patches but you just keep working on the same things and trusting what you’re doing, and I don’t doubt that things are going to get better.”
Mehaffey has every right to feel optimistic. Early season top-20 finishes in South Africa and two in Australia more than proved her game could cope at this level while she followed up with a ninth place finish on her first start back in Europe at the Madrid Ladies Open in May.
Mehaffey was hitting her stripes and her body was willing but so often success in golf amounts to what’s going on between the ears and uncharacteristic mistakes began to creep into her game the more she played.
“The hard thing for me is that physically, my body’s felt fine, but I think it was mentally,” she explains. “I played the eight weeks and then I took a week off and played six weeks in a row and I noticed that wee things started to creep in mentally that hadn’t to that point.
“I think when you’re tired mentally, the little things start to get a bit bigger and you get out of habits and start doing things you’d never do.
“I’ve taken this time for myself to sit back and reflect and make some changes behind the scenes. Having this time to reset and learn from those mistakes, going forward it won’t be something I’ll do again.
“There’s a reason a lot of pros don’t play that many weeks in a row!”
Mehaffey has committed to the LET this season and will return to action at the Estrella Damm Ladies Open in Catalunya in July before a busy summer stretch and two highlighted dates in the diary – one hopefully at the ISPS Handa World invitational in Augusta and the other set in stone at the Women’s Irish Open.
“I’ll do the final qualifier for the AIG Women’s Open, and yeah, hoping to play Galgorm again this year,” Mehaffey said.
“I mean, it’ll be lovely having two events in Ireland. I love playing in front of my family and my friends and my sponsors so that will be very enjoyable.
“I’ve been looking forward to these two events all year you know, as soon as they were announced, so I think they’ll be very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Tickets for the KPMG Women’s Irish Open are now on sale at www.womensirishopen.ie. Four-day tickets are priced at €35 while single-day tickets will cost €15. Under 16s attending the event will also be admitted free of charge.