Northern Ireland’s top female amateur golfer Olivia Mehaffey has picked up a few tips from John Rahm, who is a familiar name to fans of the sport in this part of the world following his Irish Open triumph at Portstewart last year.
The Spaniard, now established in the world’s top 10, is a graduate of Arizona State University where the Scarva woman has just started her second year combining a golf scholarship with a a degree course in sociology.
Olivia made an immediate impact, helping ASU lift the prestigious NCAA title on the back of playing a starring role as GB & Ireland claimed the Curtis Cup.
And, with the help of Rahm, who graduated from Arizona State in 2015, Olivia is hoping for more glory in the weeks and months to come, having already soared to ninth in the world amateur rankings in which Cavan’s Leona Maguire is top of the pile.
“From watching Jon, I was able to see how well he can move the ball and he can play any shot, this is something I think I could do a better job of and it was beneficial for me to see the importance of moving the ball in the air.” Olivia explained.
“I think from talking to anyone who attended college you can learn many things.
“I think his advice on the basic skills like ways to manage time better, what classes are good and how to structure your day helped me a lot.
“Jon lives in Arizona which means he is around the uni sometimes and it’s nice to watch him practice and see him on the range.
“He is such a lovely guy and any questions we have for him he has no problem in answering; he is so down to earth and fun to be around. ”
“The history of ASU was one of the reasons I went there, its amazing how many great players have been produced by the program, including Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson.
“We get the chance to spend time with some of the other alumni like Carlota Ciganda, Anna Nordqvist and Jon which has been extremely beneficial.
“Being in the American college system has allowed me to develop technically and physically, while being able to compete at the highest level of amateur golf.
“It has allowed me to adapt and learn the different styles of courses which will benefit me down the line when I plan to go professional on LPGA tour in America.
“When I first got to ASU I struggled to manage golf and studying but now I find it much easier as I have learned how to manage my time better.”
As far as her achievements to date go, some people may be surprised she rates winning the NCAA title as more prestigious than the Curtis Cup.
“It was a close call to choose between Curtis Cup or NCAA but I think winning the nationals topped it for me as it’s understood by all sports fans in the US – it’s just massive over there and It’s what every team in every sport strives to win.” she added.
While she was home last summer, Olivia swapped the fairway for the ferry as she made the short journey from Greencastle to Greenore to take in a trip to the golf club at the Co Louth venue.
She was impressed by what she saw and the fact the new Scenic Carlingford Ferry will cut the travelling time from north to south of the border by around an hour compared to the road-trip, enabling closer links between golf clubs on both sides of the lough.
She has played at Greenore many times and members of her home club at Tandragee will now be able to get to the splendid course by literally taking the scenic route.
“Greenore is an amazing golf course and it’s really exciting to see how the new ferry opens many new doors and will save people a lot of time to get to go play.” Olivia enthused
“I have many friends who play Open events in Greenore. This now means they can make the journey faster which is more appealing and they can play one of their favourite courses.
“The scenery you can take in when on the ferry is so pretty and, hopefully, the convenience of the new route will encourage visitors to maybe add Greenore to say Royal County Down, where I’m also a member, on their golf itinerary.”
Interview by sports journalist John Flack