It’s a dream scenario for Belfast native Olivia Mehaffey.
She makes her LPGA Tour debut as a professional just 30 miles up the road in Ballymena at the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management this week. The four-time WGCA All-American selection for Arizona State University heads off No. 1 tee of Galgorm Castle Golf Club at 2:20 p.m. local time tomorrow before tackling Massereene Golf Club on Friday.
“This week is very special to me. Growing up, we never had an Irish Open when there would have been a time that I could have played in it, just kind of before my time,” said Mehaffey, the individual medalist at the 2019 Pac-12 Conference Championship. “To play here as a professional is very, very special. Close to home and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of people out to support. I don’t get to compete that much at home, so it’s very special for many reasons.”
Mehaffey made her pro debut at the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship in May on the Symetra Tour, her second event on the “Road to the LPGA” in 2021. In March, she was also the 36-hole leader as an amateur at the inaugural Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic.
The two experiences acted as a sort of launching pad into the next phase of her golf career.
“It was very good for me. The Carlisle event was something I really wanted to be part of. I always say I have two homes, one here and one in Arizona,” Mehaffey said. “First time leading a professional event, so that was very key to learning while still an amateur. I think it is going to pay dividends in the future when I’m hopefully leading some professional events. I learned a lot about managing expectations, not getting ahead of yourself or putting too much pressure on yourself.
“Then making my pro debut, I did put a lot of pressure on myself. Having quite a good amateur resume, a lot of people expected me to go out there and do the same thing. It’s learning these things early on in your career where I feel like those two tournaments are going to stand by me for the rest of my career, where I now know how to handle leading a professional event and how to deal with expectations.”