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Olivia Mehaffey reflects on "amazing feeling" of winning top college event

 

Big prize: Olivia Mehaffey after superb win in Pac-12 Championship at Palos Verdes, California
Big prize: Olivia Mehaffey after superb win in Pac-12 Championship at Palos Verdes, California

By Paul Kelly

Olivia Mehaffey claimed the biggest individual title of her US college career yesterday when she edged out Stanford's Albane Valenzuela in a play-off to collect the Pac-12 Championship at Palos Verdes GC, California.

Entering the final round four shots behind overnight leader Valenzuela, the Irish international posted her second successive round of 70 to finish on four under par and force her way into the play-off where a regulation par four was good enough for victory.

"I made a good birdie on 16 and a really good par save on 17 to even get into the play-off so that was an amazing feeling," said the Banbridge-born 21-year-old who is a third year student at Arizona State University.

"I had actually struggled a little bit with my putting this week so to make those putts when you really need to make them is a really good feeling.

"It's nice to know that I am in some good form especially when it's coming to an exciting stage of the season."

It is the second college success in the space of six weeks as Olivia won the Bruin Wave Invitational at the end of February and follows her debut in the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur where she finished tied for 23rd.

"I was kind of sitting around (after her round) and then my coach said, 'Hey Liv, you should go warm up'. So, I went to the locker room and listened to some music and stretched a little bit and then heard there was a playoff," added Olivia.

"I am a really aggressive player, I thrive under pressure, and that's the player I am. So, I love moments like this and was going straight at that pin to try and make birdie.

"It was nice to have an uphill putt and not worry about racing it by. It might have been a different story if the putt was downhill, but I felt pretty good over it and felt like I had a good read."

Meanwhile, Holywood's Tom McKibbin landed the Peter McEvoy Trophy in style yesterday following a three-way play-off.

Having finished the 72-hole championship on seven-under par, McKibbin was joined in the play-off by fellow Ulster representative Aaron Marshall (Lisburn) and Melun Dhaubhadel (Calcot Park GC).

All three holed putts for par on the opening hole of the play-off.

Then McKibbin's drive found a bunker on the right side of the fairway and his second finished 25ft short of the green but his third was majestic - playing over a greenside bunker the 16-year-old holed out for a winning birdie.

At the RBC Heritage PGA Tour event in South Carolina, Portrush's Graeme McDowell continued his fine recent run of form with an opening round of 68 to lie on three under par for the tournament.

McDowell recorded four birdies and one bogey as he looks to secure the necessary victory and ranking points that will seal his place at his home Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July.

The 39-year-old is three shots behind his friend, Offaly's Shane Lowry, who was clubhouse leader after an impressive 65, carding six birdies and no dropped shots.

Francesco Molinari was unable to bounce back from his Masters flop. Molinari had led going into the final round at Augusta on Sunday, but couldn't hold off an in-form Tiger Woods who won his 15th major title.

The Italian carded an opening-round three-over-par 74 at Hilton Head.

England's Luke Donald is in the clubhouse on one under, a shot ahead of compatriots Tommy Fleetwood and Eddie Pepperell and American three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

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