Olivia Mehaffey admitted the first day of the Final Stage of Ladies European Tour Q-School was the toughest round she’s faced in Spain so far, but she still excelled under the conditions.
The Co. Down woman carded an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys on her way to a two-under 71 on the South Course at La Manga to sit third after day one, two shots off leader Yvie Chaucheprat.
Mehaffey sits comfortably inside the top-20 that will receive full category 11 LET membership next year, with the cut mark currently sitting at level-par, however she still has four rounds to navigate before any playing rights are handed out.
And with conditions getting ever tougher on the south-east coast of Spain, the 24-year-old considers herself to be at an advantage given her upbringing on the links courses of Ireland.
“It was the toughest round I’ve had since I’ve been here. I thought it was windy last week but this was a whole new level. It was very fun – I’m glad I spent the last six weeks in Ireland because it was very like Irish weather!” she laughed.
“I thought we’d covered all the winds last week but a lot of the holes were very different today. I think that was the fun thing, you don’t know what way the wind’s going to be, you don’t know how strong it will be, and that’s the fun challenge, you have to be creative and I quite enjoyed that.”
Starting at the 10th on the South, Mehaffey got off to the ideal start when she eagled the par-five 13th to quickly get under-par, and she would reach the turn at the same score after canceling out a bogey at the 15th with a birdie on 18.
The former Arizona State star struggled initially on the front-nine as back-to-back bogeys at the third and fourth dropped her back to level-par, however she quickly responded with back-to-back birdies at the fourth and fifth to finish the day with a 71.
That leaves her two back of Chaucheprat, whose bogey-free 67 on the North Course has her one ahead of England’s Meghan McLaren (South), with Mehaffey sharing third alongside her former Arizona State team-mate Linn Grant of Sweden and German amateur Sophie Witt.
It was not such a great day for Royal Belfast’s Victoria Craig, however, as she could only manage a three-over 76 on the South Course to sit in a share of 48th, three shots back of the top-20 cut mark.
The 24-year-old picked up both of her birdies on two of the four par-threes, the second and 17th, but she also had five bogeys that leaves her playing catch-up after the opening round in La Manga.