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Rising star Olivia Mehaffey lands an historic opportunity to triumph at Augusta

 

By Paul Kelly

What a great start to 2019 for Olivia Mehaffey and she didn't even have to hit a ball in anger.

The Banbridge golfer will play her part in an historic event when she lines up in the very first Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship from April 3 to 6.

The 54-hole stroke play tournament will feature an international field of 72 players. Invitees were determined by rewarding winners of other recognised championships and using the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The 21-year-old Irish international earned her place in the field via her world ranking position of 26th at the end of 2018.

The first two rounds will take place at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta. After a cut to the low 30 scores, the final competitive round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6, when an amateur champion will be crowned for the first time ever at the home of the Masters.

Augusta did not allow women members until 2012. This new tournament was unveiled last year to much fanfare with Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National GC, stating; "Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts left behind a legacy of always trying to contribute meaningfully to the game.

"The Augusta National Women's Amateur embodies that principle, and we believe this event will have a significant and lasting impact on the future of the women's game.

"Our hope and expectation is that this event will further energise those who already love the sport and inspire others through the dream of competing at Augusta National."

Mehaffey is currently a junior at Arizona State University. She is a two-time Curtis Cup player and was part of the 2016 Great Britain & Ireland team that saw off the US at Dun Laoighaire GC.

She is no stranger to competing in high profile events. Last year she played alongside the professionals at the US Women's Open having contested two Ricoh Women's British Opens, in 2016 and 2017.

At last year's US Women's Amateur she qualified for the knockout rounds in third place but exited at the last 32, beaten by Jiwon Jeon.

Meanwhile, Charley Hull will take a slender lead into the final round of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open after a tough second day for the field in Abu Dhabi.

Fierce winds sent scores soaring at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Hull's battling level-par 72 proved enough to keep her on top of the leaderboard ahead of fellow English player Jodi Ewart Shadoff.

Hull, who led by two strokes overnight after her blistering 65 on day one, recovered from bogeys at six and eight with a birdie at the ninth to turn in level par, although she then slipped into a share of the lead with Luna Sobron when she dropped another shot at 13.

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