Belfast Telegraph

Move over Rory McIlroy as females of the fairways drive ahead

By Claire McNeilly

Here come the golf girls!

Ulster's enviable reputation as the golf capital of the world is being further enhanced by its 'femmes of the fairways'... an up-and-coming crop of highly talented local females.

Inspired by the exploits of the country's three Major-winning men, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, our young ladies are beginning to take a stranglehold on the sport themselves.

For instance, Cavan girl Leona Maguire, who trains in Fermanagh, has hit No 1 in the Women's World Amateur rankings after a terrific run of form, and twin Lisa isn't far behind.

Banbridge native Olivia Mehaffey recently completed an unprecedented treble success of back-to-back wins in the Irish Girls Open Stroke Play (for the third year in a row), Scottish Open and Welsh Open.

Stephanie Meadow, from Jordanstown, is also making positive strides on the ladies professional golf circuit after breaking all kinds of records as an amateur in Irish golf before her move to America.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Olivia (17) said it was thrilling to see local ladies lead the field.

"I know the Maguire twins and Stephanie - and it's great that we're all doing well," she said.

"Hopefully it will be good for boosting golf in Northern Ireland and Ireland."

Olivia, a pupil at Newry Southern Regional College, said she was particularly proud of her Scottish Open success.

"Scotland was my first ladies international win," she said. "To follow it up with another win the week after in Wales was great.

The sports science student admitted it's hard to combine studies with golf.

"I have to do a good bit of work when I'm away, - in a plane or car - so it's hard enough," said Olivia, who's in lower sixth.

"I'm going to Arizona State University next September, which means I need a good academic background as well."

Why choose America?

"I want to turn pro after, so I need to get used to the courses and I want to get a degree as well as playing golf, so it was just the best option," she said.

She'll follow in the footsteps of Meadow, who was awarded a paid scholarship at the University of Alabama and turned professional last year.

However, Olivia said there were other young local ladies to watch out for.

"There are two girls from Lurgan on my Ireland team who are great - Annabel Wilson (13) and 16-year-old Niamh McSherry," she said.

"There's also Jennifer Cardy (20) from Holywood. She's in university in Denver and she was on the Europeans with me last year as well."

Olivia said it was inspiring to have Rory, G-Mac and Darren, Europe's new Ryder Cup captain, to look up to.

Belfast Telegraph


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