Olivia Mehaffey is the newly crowned queen of Irish golf but she has given the credit for that to somebody just a little unexpected.
The Scarva girl smashed her way to victory at the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship by eight clear shots last weekend. Impressive? Very. More so because it was the teenager’s first tournament back after eight weeks out with glandular fever.
So how did she come back so strongly? Well, that’s at least in part because she spent her time off with what she says is the first book she’s ever read.
“I used the time to work on the mental side of things,” she explains more eloquently. “I read a book about overcoming adversity.
It was Drew Brees’ book called ‘Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity.’
“He’s an NFL player who came back from a bad shoulder injury in 2005 to win the Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
“I found it really, really hard having to pull out of three big tournaments over the last few weeks. It was tough, I’ve never had anything like that before but I think the book helped me get straight back in and win. If I had come back and played poorly it might have dented my confidence.”
Olivia certainly unleashed something at the Island golf course in Dublin.
She led after all three rounds, opening with the lowest round of the tournament, a five under par 69.
That was followed with a one over par 75 and a final round 79 in tough, windy conditions.
“I played really well on the first day but I was a bit disappointed not to keep that going in the second round,” she said.
“Then on Sunday, the course was just about playable. There were weather warnings going out so we knew that it was going to be fun. Even with our putts, we had to allow for what the wind was going to do with it.
“I saw the weather forecast and I was very happy about that. I know I can play in wind and other people can’t.
“A lot of people don’t practice in the wind but it helps to get the ball flight down. It’s a challenge but it’s one that suits my game,” said the Royal County Down member, who no doubt benefitted from the normal blustery conditions of her home course.
Another benefit to the teenager was her choice of caddy, an international golfer who had more than a sprinkling of knowledge of The Island course.
“My friend Kevin (LeBlanc) was caddying for me,” she said. “He plays there so I had a wee bit of local knowledge, telling me where to land the ball and what to do.”
Olivia is hoping that her victory will help to lift her off her current 10th place in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
And winning the biggest tournament in Ireland isn’t a bad way to push on towards the top.
“It’s a good feeling,” she beamed. “There were a lot of good players there so it’s nice to come out on top.
“I only had a one shot lead going into the last round but it was great to see it out in those circumstances and feel in control for the whole round.”
It was Olivia’s first win of the season, following on from top five finishes in South America and Portugal before illness struck.
Next up comes her defence of two titles, at the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship from 22nd to 24th April and then at the Welsh Ladies Open Strokeplay Championship from 29th April to 1st May.
But whatever happens there, Olivia certainly knows how to ‘come back stronger.’ Thank-you Drew Brees.