Olivia Mehaffey may not have produced the final round she was hoping for as she’d shoot a two-over 74, to end the week tied for 12th but after a difficult stretch, it was the Tandragee girl’s best result of the season.
Back-to-back bogeys followed by a double on the front nine effectively ended Mehaffey’s chances of a fairytale first professional victory as the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Napoleaova went on to beat Cara Gainer of England in a playoff.
A bogey at the third took her to plus figures for the day, but the real damage was done on six, seven and eight, the latter hole proving particularly penal for the second day in a row. Mehaffey’s struggles with grief after losing her father and the subsequent loss of form have been well documented, but despite her victory chances slipping away, she refused to throw in the towel and responded with a run of four birdies in five holes on the back nine as she clawed her way back towards level par for the day and though she’d ultimately fall short, the week’s performance brings with it a considerable confidence boost as she looks to secure her playing rights for 2024 with a strong second half of the season.
“Obviously not the weekend I would’ve liked,” Mehaffey said afterwards. “Just felt like yesterday I could’ve got it going but didn’t and didn’t hole any putts and then today I just hit a few loose shots and got a little bit frustrated because when you know you need to make birdies and drop a few shots it’s easy to let it go.
“I thought I struggled a little bit in managing frustration and then I had a talk with myself going up nine and said “come on, don’t let this get away from you.” So it was nice to battle it out on the back nine, so that’s a positive, though obviously not the score I would’ve liked. But I’m pretty happy to have gone on that birdie run after the front nine.
“I think the main takeaway is that I’ve gotten a little bit of confidence back, you know. I haven’t had any confidence at all and it’s been tough, results haven’t been there, and I’ve seen it a little bit in practice but to come and do it at a tournament is a different thing and you know, I think I’ll take a lot of positives away from this week, my game is there and I’ll continue with the things I’m doing.
“Obviously it’s nice to have a result this week and to see the work I’m doing paying off and now I’ve got two tournaments in a row, to get a bit of run going, but overall it’s disappointing not to have the weekend after getting off to such a great start but I have to see the positives. I haven’t made very many cuts, and to be in contention maybe came a little fast from where I’d been.”
“Maybe making a cut should’ve been the first step,” she added light heartedly, “but then to go and lead a tournament from there. Overall a little disappointing, but I think I’ve learned a lot from today and hopefully I can continue to learn from that and improve over the next few weeks.”
Playing together in the final threesome, Gainer and Napoleaova began tied at -13 and the former opened a three-stroke lead by the fourth tee, but Napoleaova hit back and when she eagled the par-5 13th she’d edged in front. A bogey at the last, while Gainer parred meant we were destined for a playoff and it would be the Czech who would hold her nerve to claim her maiden professional victory.