Olivia Mehaffey says she will embrace the home feels at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational this week and insists this event will always have a special place in her heart as it was the last event her late father watched her play before passing away.
It’s almost one year to the day since Mehaffey stepped away from the game for mental health reasons after admitting she was ‘broken’ following the passing of her father Philip (59) in December 2021 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.
The 2021 ISPS HANDA World Invitational in Galgorm Castle two years ago was the last event her father got to see her play in and for that reason, this will always be an emotional and meaningful event for her.
“This event will always be special for me. This is the last event my dad watched me play. He was in like a little mobility thingy when he was going round and I was like oh, my gosh, and he got watch me play all four rounds. This event will always be really special for me,” said the Tandragee native.
“Had a good finish the first year I played, so I think if anything, it probably gives me good memories. I try to look at that as a great thing and I enjoyed it so much.
“I think probably the enjoyment factor more so. It’s really fun. I think just more so having him around. I kept looking every fairway and I’m like, oh, my gosh he’s still here. I think he needs to go home.
“So just having him there every round was so nice for me. So I think probably just those memories and like how special it was to have him there beside me every shot, every hole.”
This will be Mehaffey’s third straight appearance in the event after earning an invite from the Ladies European Tour and she is looking forward to satisfying the demand for tickets with plenty set to line the fairways with her.
“Yeah, it’s amazing, I have so many good memories for the last two years. I think playing in front of your family and friends, normally it’s great if you have one or two family coming to an event, but to be here this week, and we try and take every players tickets because I know I’m going to have a lot of people here, so it’s a really nice feeling.”
For the 25-year-old she went into the 2023 season somewhat staring into the unknown after her extended break but finishes of 12th and a career-best T3 in Finland are signs that she is moving in the right direction.
“Yeah, for me, at the start of the year I didn’t set any goals. Normally I set where I want to finish, order of merit, world ranking, try and win tournaments. I didn’t do any of that this year.
“I just wanted to come back in my break last year and really enjoy golf, and frankly I’m doing that again, which is great. So I’m just going to keep that same mentality for the rest of the year. I think when you’re enjoying it you’re playing good, so that’s sort of my only goal. Try not to put no pressure on myself, no expectations, which is difficult at times to manage, but I think it’s very important.”
Mehaffey also feels that the standard of the women’s game in Ireland is only going from strength to strength.
“I think when I was a little girl I looked up to the guys. Always had so many great male players. Didn’t maybe have as much on the women’s side. Obviously Leona and Steph kind of breaking down a lot of barriers. I am coming in behind them. There is a lot of girls in college. It’s getting really strong. It’s nice to see the women to follow in the men’s footsteps.
“So I think it’s exciting and Irish is a good place. I think it’s only going to get better, and I think events like this and also for us having the Irish Open back on the schedule I think it’s great. I believe that we’re in a good spot. It’s just going to keep getting better.”