35423542

WATC: Ireland set their sights on Espirito Santo

​Olivia Mehaffey sums it neatly.“Being in Ireland, it would be amazing to win a medal,” says the 20-year-old international from Scarva, Co Down. 

  • 27 August 2018

PHOTO: Mehaffey in action, courtesy of Sportsfile.
 
Her subject of conversation is the World Amateur Team Championships, which begin at Carton House with the Espirito Santo Trophy on Wednesday. Two years ago Mehaffey was a member of the Ireland team that took bronze for the first time and now that the worlds have come to Ireland for the first time, the incentive could hardly be greater.
 
“Winning a bronze two years ago in Mexico, I know what that feeling is like,” says Mehaffey. “I remember the last day we wanted a medal so bad. We were fourth or fifth and there was quite a few teams in the running. Even down the stretch I love being under pressure and I remember 16, I had 50 foot for birdie and I held it. Then I stiffed it on 17 and Leona [Maguire] held a really good putt on 18. Having memories like that coming back from that week is definitely huge.”
 
With that podium finish still clear in her mind, Mehaffey is focused on repeating that success and if experience holds the key, Ireland can be confident of unlocking that medal drawer again.
 
Lurgan teenager Annabel Wilson was also on board for that bronze-medal win in Mexico. Still not 18, Wilson already has amassed a major haul of prizes. A win at the French U18 Championship in 2017 was followed by third-place finishes at the Scottish Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Irish Girls Open Stroke Play Championship.
 
This season she has enjoyed top 15s at the Portuguese Amateur and the Faldo Series International Finals as well as progressing to the last 32 at the Ladies British Amateur Championship. In the process Wilson broke into the world’s top 100 and she managed all this while undertaking her GCSEs.
 
Two-time Irish Women’s Close Champion, Paula Grant completes the Ireland team. She stepped firmly into the international frame when she finished as leading qualifier at the 2017 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in Pyle & Kenfig, bowing out to eventual winner Leona Maguire in the quarter-final.
 
Top-10 finishes at the South American Amateur, Welsh Ladies Open Stroke Play and the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play this year secured Grant a spot on both the Patsy Hankins Trophy European Team and the GB&I Curtis Cup team to take on the USA at Quaker Ridge. And Grant has skyrocketed through the world rankings. At the beginning of 2017 she was barely inside the top 1000 in the world but 18 months later she sits comfortably inside the top 100.
 
Mehaffey meanwhile has completed two years at Arizona State University since the last world championship in Mexico, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championships in her first season Stateside. Her graph continues to climb and this year she qualified for the US Women’s Open.
 
Mehaffey is best placed to put this week’s event in context.
 
“It’s huge,” she says. “It’s a really prestigious event and I know that everyone in their country fights really hard to be on that team.”
 
The battle for medals begins when the first shots are struck on Wednesday morning.