Mehaffey leads home challenge as Dagar sets the pace in Irish Open

Co Down native concentrating on her mental game as she posts a three-under 69 to lie four shots adrift of the Indian pacesetter

Late on in the evening, as those late finishers reached their destination, whether on the ninth green or the 18th in the two-tee start, a powerful rainbow found a gap in the clouds to materialise over Dromoland Castle; almost as if to urge players in this opening round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open to find the pot of gold – or, perhaps, the €60,0000 winner’s cheque – on offer to whoever could navigate a way to the prize.

And although India’s Diksha Dagar had long since posted the seven-under-par 65 that gave the 22-year-old, already a two-time winner on the Ladies’ European Tour, the first round lead, among those at the back end of the draw to make a move of their own was Olivia Mehaffey.

Mehaffey, only 24 years old, but who has been through so much in her short professional career, again showed her undoubted talent in carding a three-under-par 69, for tied-13th, that left her leading the home challenge, while Leona Maguire – the world number 17 – struggled on the greens for the most part in posting an opening 71.

For Mehaffey, it was – finally – a round that brought affirmation that she is very much back on track, ready to set goals and to achieve them. Maybe even the necklace she has promised herself if all goes well this week.


“Overall happy. I had a big reset last week with my team, there were a lot of tears but I feel like we are [on] the track we were on before that good run of form. It is nice to see the things I am working on come together quite nicely there today,” said Mehaffey, who has produced some good results – including a tied-third in Finland – to go with not so good ones.

She currently sits 63rd on the LET Race to Costa del Sol order of merit and, having missed the cut in both the Aramco London and the ISPS Handa World Invitational, this rebound to form, after hard talking with her team – coach Johnnie Foster and mental coach David Jenkins – has been much-deserved.

“When we had that meeting last week, I said to Johnny, ‘we’re not going to do any technique for the rest of the year because‚ when you give me a little bit, I just seem to get obsessed with it’. And the main thing for me right now is committing to shots, playing with freedom out on the golf course.

“So that’s kind of what our meeting was last week, we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to park the technical stuff. We’re going to put a really big emphasis on the mental stuff’. So I feel like that’s sort of the direction that we’re going for the rest of the year,” said Mehaffey.

The evidence of her new focus was found in a round that saw Mehaffey claim six birdies (inside her opening 14 holes) and three bogeys

As she put it of her goalsetting: “I set goals with Johnny. We do like a mental kind of scorecard in a way and today wasn’t perfect. I think I had four holes that it wasn’t what I wanted. So there’s still room for improvement in that aspect. So that’s what I’m going to strive for to try and get that number down a little bit more. I play for a prize and I’m playing for a necklace this week. So I really would like to win myself this necklace.”

Maguire, meanwhile, stayed patient as the putter – from the off – proved disobedient, a five-footer for birdie on her opening hole, the 10th, refusing to drop. Indeed, it would be the 13th hole of her opening round before the Solheim Cup bound player managed to find a birdie and that then set off a hat-trick of them.

“I feel like I’m playing pretty well, just feel like I need to hole a few putts. It’s tricky when the greens are as soft and bumpy as they are but we’ll give it our best shot for the next few days. There’s lots of golf still to be played,” said Maguire.

Dagar, who is enjoying a fine season and currently fifth in the order of merit,remarked of her bogey-free round: “I was thinking this golf course is tough, so I just took it one shot at a time because every shot counts. It was a good day and very surprising. I have been having the same mentality and every year my game improves and so does my thinking process. The more you play, the better you get.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times