Olivia Mehaffey faces a battle to make the cut at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic on the Epson Tour.
Mehaffey carded a one-over 73 to lie one shot outside the projected cut line and seven off the lead. The Tandragee native finished strongly however, with two birdies in her last four holes having carded an early double bogey to put herself against the wall.
There is a five-way tie for the top with Emily Hoffman, Ktherine Smith and Amanda Doherty posting morning rounds of 66 before they were joined late in the day by Karen Chung and Kathleen Scavo.
Scavo carded eight birdies on the day, two of which closed out the California native’s round. Despite the exciting finish, Scavo’s round highlight was an approach shot before she made the turn to the back nine.
“The highlight was on No. 9. I hit a really good approach shot on my second shot to get there in two [strokes] and set myself up with a 15-footer for eagle. I missed it, but it was still a great shot.”
Chung, who’s making her first start in 2023, closed out her round with an eagle on No. 9. The 27-year-old changed her putting routine to begin the new season, which ultimately paid off when she sunk big putts to move her name up the leaderboard.
“I kind of had a slow start to the day. I actually went reverse claw with my putting and that was the first time it’s come out of the bag this year,” said Chung. “My putting helped me out a lot today; I think I had about 27 putts. Hopefully, I can keep it rolling.”
Morning round co-leader, Smith felt good walking off the last green and was proud of her first-round performance. The 23-year-old carded seven birdies on the day, three of which were consecutive to close out her front nine.
“I’ve been waiting for rounds like these for a few months now,” said Smith. “So it’s nice to know that what I’m working on is working. Why not build on it and trust it tomorrow? It’s a new day tomorrow, but it’s nice to know that my game is there, and I can shoot these types of scores at this golf course.”
Doherty started her round strong, -3 through the first five holes, and said the first 18 felt solid. The 25-year-old walked off No. 18 green after carding a double bogey, stating it was an unfortunate finish, but kept her name at the top of the leaderboard and maintained momentum heading into the second round.
“A little bit of everything was going right today. I was hitting the ball pretty well and a few long putts went in, nothing crazy but a solid round all over,” said Doherty. “There were a few bad shots on 18. It’s always unfortunate finishing with a bad hole, you want some momentum going into tomorrow, but you have to balance it. Golf’s hard, it happens. There are plenty of bogeys left, plenty of birdies left. You have to take the highs with the lows, I guess.”
Hoffman’s strong finish stemmed from good golf and lots of support. Being close to home allows the 25-year-old’s friends and family to support her in person rather than via phone and social media when the tour is playing on the east coast. As a result, Hoffman carded a bogey-free -6 in front of her support system.
“I only live about 30 minutes from the course, so this is a home game for me. I had my family and friends out here supporting me, so I just felt really comfortable all day long,” said Hoffman. “It’s great having family and friends out here, I love seeing all of them and I love these west coast events. It’s just great to be here.”
A total of 78 players finished the first round at even par or better, including 2022 champions Jaravee Boonchant, Grace Kim, Maria Torres, Daniela Iacobelli, Britney Yada, and Celine Borge.