A Banbridge High School student has recently been rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite golfers, and showing she’s not out of place either.
Olivia Mehaffey was invited to last month’s Lalla Meryem Cup, playing against the likes of golfing legend Laura Davies and England’s prodigy, tournament winner Charley Hull.
Olivia plays off +1 and, at just 16 years-old, is certainly one to watch.
Playing in her first ever Ladies European Tour event, she finished tied 47th, impressively making the cut by following up an opening round 72 with a 73 to go into the weekend +3. She even led the event briefly after a birdie three on her first ever hole in a professional tournament.
“I really enjoyed it, it was brilliant,” Olivia beamed.
“It was very daunting at the start but then I met my friend who plays on the Tour and that kind of made me feel a little bit more relaxed.
“You realise you have to get on with things. Nobody realised I was an amateur so everyone treated me the same and everyone was lovely.
“I was very happy with how I played. I had no expectations before the event. I just wanted to go, learn something and get a bit of experience. I was delighted to make the cut though. I wasn’t expecting to do that at all. I just wanted to experience what pro life was like.”
Life on tour might well be something Olivia gets used to in the years to come and she certainly took to it like a duck to water, shooting two level par 71s at the weekend in Morocco.
“It was a really different experience,” she said.
“We got police escorts to the club house and stuff so that was like ‘wow.’
“We got shuttles to the course or if you missed those, there were Range Rovers sitting there to take you to the club. It was brilliant. It was really well run. The standard was better and everyone was very professional before the event. There was a lot of practice and preparation before it all started compared to the amateur game.
“I played with Pamela Feggans and Viki Laing in the practice round. They were so good. Their shot shaping and everything was top class so it was brilliant to experience that.”
Mahaffey qualified with an impressive second place finish in the Faldo series for promising junior golfers and she’s hoping to get more European action in this season.
“I got an email about a month before the event in Morocco from Faldo about playing,” she said.
“I asked my dad if I should go and he said definitely so it was all organised quickly at the last minute.
“It’s definitely a new experience and because I made the cut, I think I’ll maybe get to plat in a Ladies European Tour Access event. I don’t think I’ll be nervous at all to play in that now that I’ve experienced it before.
“The access tour is for pros who haven’t got their full tour card from the tour school. The girl said she’d be in touch about it so hopefully I’ll get to play there during the summer at some stage.”
It’s already looking like a packed schedule for Olivia, who also has the normal rigours of teenage life to contend with on top of her golf.
“I have the Irish Open stroke-play on Saturday and then over Easter I have the inter-pros coming up for Ulster,” she said.
“I’m doing my GCSE’s as well so it’s really difficult. I was in school to five o’clock the other day and then straight to the range after that. I would go down to the range most days after school.”
She’s a member of Tandragee GC and Royal County Down and says her success is down to time spent at the club.
She said: “I put in a lot of practice and dedication. Any time that I have, I will practice because I know that I need to do it a lot if I want to be up there with the best.
“Normally I enjoy practicing and I’ll want to do it. It makes it a bit easier.”
So what does the future hold for the promising young golfer?
“I want to get an education first and then go on to become a pro. That week in Morocco had taught me that it’s what I want to do.
“I might go to university in America. I already have a few offers but I’ll see how it goes really.”
For now though, Olivia will continue to balance the text-books and the tee-times as she continues her rise up the golfing world.