The Tandragee woman is making her LPGA Tour debut at Galgorm and Massereene this week and she carried herself well in front of a large crowd of friends and family, carding a three-under 70 to sit four off the lead.
Despite this being her maiden Tour appearance, Mehaffey looked in her element, and she revealed a chance meeting with the Dane helped massively.
“Because it’s at home, there’s crowds, it’s my first LPGA start, it feels like my debut even though I’ve been pro a few months now. Few nerves on the first tee, but I felt really comfortable, which is nice,” said the 23-year-old.
“I actually ended up playing a six-hole match with Soren Kjeldsen on Wednesday — Gary (her caddy) caddied for him for a few years — and I was a bit nervous, but that really helped settle me, I felt really comfortable with him and he’s such an elite player. It’s nice to feel comfortable.”
Meanwhile, America’s Emma Talley is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former college room-mate Stephanie Meadow by becoming the second University of Alabama graduate to win the event.
The Nashville native opened the tournament with a six-under 67 at Galgorm — the women’s par is 73, compared to the men’s 70 — to sit one shot off the early lead held by Chella Choi, Jennifer Kupcho and Gemma Dryburgh.
Talley and Meadow roomed together for several years while at college and now could make it back-to-back Alabama winners of the World Invitational after Meadow’s victory in 2019.
And Talley is hopeful that her former team-mate wouldn’t mind her taking her crown if she went on to triumph on Sunday, particularly given the Northern Irish woman isn’t able to defend her title as she is competing in the Olympic Games next week.
“I think that would be good. I think she would let me do that,” laughed the 27-year-old, who had seven birdies and one bogey in her opening round.
“She’s a great girl. I was able to kind of look up to her all through college golf. She won everything. She taught me a lot and I tried to go in her footsteps because she was so successful in college. Great girl.
“Leona Maguire is one of my good friends on Tour too. They’re both from over here so maybe they’re my lucky charms.
“It can get windy and cold and rainy, but I love playing golf over here, always have. Hopefully it treats me well the next couple of weeks.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s Dryburgh was thrilled to see her name at the top of the leaderboard after a frustrating couple of years on the LPGA Tour.
The 28-year-old has had to battle simply to get starts in tournaments and although she won two events on the Rose Series over lockdown, she has yet to replicate that in a main event. However, she fired five birdies and an eagle in her round to position herself nicely after day one and that was the kind of outcome she’d been desperate to see.
“I think I’ve had six starts on the LPGA so far and you have to take opportunities when you can,” admitted Dryburgh.
“It’s hard to get a rhythm going almost when you don’t get into every event. That’s been a bit frustrating.
“I felt like my game has been going in the right direction, so I just had to stay patient, so it was nice to see it pay off today.”