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Olivia Mehaffey: Coronavirus has thrown my plans to turn pro up in the air but life's about appreciating the normal things now

 

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Olivia Mehaffey had been hoping to turn pro this summer.

Olivia Mehaffey had been hoping to turn pro this summer.

Olivia Mehaffey had been hoping to turn pro this summer.

Scarva golfer Olivia Mehaffey says her plans to turn professional have been thrown up in the air by the coronavirus pandemic but despite her frustrations, she's urging everyone to appreciate the simple things in life.

Last weekend, she returned home from four years at Arizona State University - cut a crucial few months short due to the pandemic.

Mehaffey had been due to lead her side into the Nationals - the US College calendar's biggest event - at their home course to mark the climax of her stint with the 'Sun Devils'.

After that, there were some final amateur commitments to honour and then it was off to LPGA Tour School to attempt to follow in Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire's footsteps and make it three Ulster golfers in the top tier of women's golf.

Now, as with sport around the globe, the future is very uncertain.

"The Nationals were a big deal for us," she admits.

"That's the big one, the one you look ahead to all year. It would have been my final one as well and I'll miss graduation too. After that, I had a nice summer lined up to play Curtis Cup and Palmer Cup and then go to LPGA Tour School, which is due to start in August.

"Now there are question marks in my head of is Q -School even going to happen? Can I still turn pro? Am I going to have to wait another year?

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Olivia (left) and Leona Maguire are well used to being team-mates in amateur competition but Mehaffey is hoping they can be LPGA Tour playing partners in the not too distant future.

Olivia (left) and Leona Maguire are well used to being team-mates in amateur competition but Mehaffey is hoping they can be LPGA Tour playing partners in the not too distant future.

©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

Olivia (left) and Leona Maguire are well used to being team-mates in amateur competition but Mehaffey is hoping they can be LPGA Tour playing partners in the not too distant future.

 

"The timing isn't ideal for my career because I was ready to move on and now there's that uncertainty. Without going to Q-School, I wouldn't have any starts so I couldn't turn pro.

"I could look at the Ladies' European Tour. I wouldn't have done that before but now they've got a better schedule and some more events so that's another option.

"They're also talking about adding another year of senior eligibility in college so I could go back and do a Masters at Arizona and play on the team again. At least there are some options there.​"

For now, it's a rare spell back at home with family to sit out the pandemic which, she realises, is a great deal more significant than any short-term career frustrations.

Here's her lockdown Q&A, complete with a remarkably professional answer on what she'll do after it's all over:

Q. How are you keeping?

A. We're all keeping well, no signs of the virus so we're all lucky and all healthy. It's me, my mum Evelyn, my dad Philip and 23 year-old brother Luke at home. There haven't been any arguments yet but then I'm not long home from America. I was actually really stressed deciding what to do. They had kind of said a strict lockdown would be unlikely at college in Arizona and I was wondering if I was better to stay there and practice or come home. Then I thought about spending the whole summer there with nobody and realised I needed to get home. At the European, girls were talking about staying then we all just booked flights at the last minute to get home.

Q. How are you keeping fit?​

A. We have some dumbbells, kettle bells, a bar and medicine bells round the house. You realise how much you can do with bodyweight, you don't necessarily need all that equipment from the gym. In terms of my golf game, we're lucky we have an astroturf green in the garden and a bunker and things to practice the short game. You kind of work on other things and technique - it just feels like another off season. I'll be very excited to go back out and hit drivers though. I'll maybe get a bit handy and see if I can make myself a net.​

 

Q. How are you keeping morale up?

A. I'm just thinking that we're so lucky to be healthy because there are so many people out there struggling and it's such a terrible virus. I'm just really enjoying being with family because I know that after this, the next few years won't give me too much time at home again. I couldn't tell you the last time I've been home for three weeks without trips to Dublin or England or something in the middle of it. Mum and dad are very happy to have me back.​

Q. Where are you drawing your personal strength from now​

A. I really struggled last year when I broke my hand but I feel like I'm in the same situation again and I really learnt a lot from that. I was really down on myself and frustrated being in the house because I'm so used to doing a lot of travelling and having something to do. Now I'm just feeling like I've got time to read and spend time with the family. I'm just so lucky to be healthy and well. Sport isn't the priority now with everything going on.

Q. Sports fans are staying at home too - can you recommend a book, film and box set for them?

A. A book would be one called 'Stillness is the Key' which would be very good for a time like now. Each chapter is on something different about finding stillness, so one is on the importance of journalling and things like that. It's by Ryan Holiday.

I love Line of Duty for a box set and Knives Out is a recent film that maybe a lot of people wouldn't have seen yet. It's a crime-thriller type and it was really good.

Q. What life lessons are you learning from this crisis?​

A. Slowing things down and being grateful for what we have. You really miss a lot of things that you take for granted like seeing your friends and playing golf. It's all about appreciating all of those normal things when we get to do them again.

Q. When this is all over, what's the first thing you'll do?​

A. I need to go and play Royal County Down because I haven't done that since I've been home.

Q. What's your message to fans?

A. The tough times will not last. There will soon be too much sport on our TVs because everything will be happening all at once so we've got that to look forward to.

Belfast Telegraph