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Olivia Mehaffey prepares to make history after qualifying to play at Augusta


On course: Olivia Mehaffey in action
On course: Olivia Mehaffey in action
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Royal County Down's Olivia Mehaffey will make history tomorrow as one of the first women to ever play a competitive round of golf at Augusta National after she qualified for the final round of the first annual Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship.

The 21-year-old shot a one-under par second round at Champions Retreat Golf Club, also in Augusta, to book her place as one of the top-30 finishers having ended one-over par for the first two days.

Mehaffey mixed four birdies with as many bogeys in her second round to comfortably secure her place at Augusta tomorrow, currently in a tie for 11th.

It means she is six shots adrift of the world's leading amateur Jennifer Kupcho going into the final day - the tournament is over 54 holes as opposed to the standard 72 - with the American at five-under par and holding a one-stroke lead over Mexico's Maria Fassi.

But while she may be an outside shot to win the inaugural Championship, the experience alone will be a fantastic one for Mehaffey, who will become one of the first female golfers to tee off at one of the world's most renowned golf courses.

Augusta only relaxed its male-only policy back in 2012, when former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was one of the first women allowed to become a member of the club, and hosting its first tournament for women was the next big step, announced at last year's Masters.

Girls have long been able to take part in the Masters' traditional Drive, Chip and Putt contest held on the Sunday before the Major, but this will be the first time a women's tournament will be held on the course itself.

Now Mehaffey can write her name in the history books when she tees off in the footsteps of golfing legends such as Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods when she takes on the famous pristine fairways tomorrow.

Although her chances of winning may be quite slim, with six shots a large margin to claw back in one round, there is plenty of optimism given playing Augusta will be a new experience for the entire field - and an unforgiving one for those not at the top of their game.

All the participants - even those who did not qualify for the final round - will be able to take part in a practice round at Augusta National today to familiarise themselves with the course's severe undulations.

No matter how she performs, the experience of playing a course as tricky and as beautiful as Augusta will be an unforgettable one for Mehaffey, who will keep her fingers crossed that the fairways have saved some magic for her as well.

The final round will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, with coverage beginning at 5pm.

• Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin is the leading Ulsterman at the European Tour's Jordan Open after he shot an opening round of four-under at Ayla Golf Club.

Sharvin carded a round of 68 to sit four shots back of overnight leader Daan Huizing, with Michael Hoey a further shot adrift after he opened his tournament with a three-under 69.

The first mixed tournament to be held by the European Tour, the event combines both men's and women's golfers, who compete for the same prize but play the course from different tees.

England's Meghan McClaren is the leading female in the field after she opened her account with a seven-under-par 65.

Ireland's Robin Dawson is three-over par after the opening round, while Brendan McGovern is 10-over.

Belfast Telegraph


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