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All change for Olivia as she gets used to juggling studies and golf

By Paul Kelly

It was supposed to be the off-season but Olivia Mehaffey spent much of her Christmas break on the practice ground at Royal County Down working on her game.

The 18-year-old amateur star from Banbridge, currently ranked number three in world, has been making some swing changes under the watchful eye of RCD professional, Kevin Whitson.

"I've been working on compression, starting the ball out a bit lower with a stronger flight," said Olivia, who was back in Northern Ireland after completing her first semester at Arizona State University.

"I've tended to hit it a bit high with too much spin. The coaches at college have been very supportive. I am in control of my own game and it was my decision to make this change. It's more powerful and more efficient. I'm hitting it lovely right now so I'm very happy with how the changes have bedded in."

The reigning Irish Strokeplay champion, who played a key role in last year's GB&I Curtis Cup success, is still adapting to life in America but is looking forward to spring and the main body of the competitive season.

"It was nice to get settled in and everything. I really like it but there are a lot of things that are different. So the first semester has all been about getting used to those things," added Olivia who admitted that juggling studies and golf has been tricky.

"The practice, that is no problem, I would have been doing that anyway even if I was at home. School has been quite demanding. I didn't expect that to be so difficult but you have to knuckle down and focus. My days are regularly 6am to 10/11pm. It's pretty hard work."

Arizona compete in the Pac-12 conference and will be facing some of the best collegiate golf teams in the US, including the likes of Stanford and UCLA. It's top class competition but with the season not finishing until late May, it will likely curtail her outings in domestic events.

"It's impossible to fit everything in. In the past I neglected rest a lot, but I understand now just how important rest is," added Olivia.

"At the moment I've four or five events pencilled in, including the European Individual Championship, the British Amateur and the British Open. I also hope to be selected for the Vagliano Trophy and I'm also going to try and qualify for the US Open.

"If I play the full college season, then come home and play and then turn round and head back to college in September for more golf I'll not have had any meaningful rest.

"That's a lot of golf and there's no real off-season as such so I have to be cautious. One of the reasons I was ill last year [a bout of glandular fever laid her low in February/March/April] was because I did too much. I have learnt a lot about rest and recovery."

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