Olivia blooms in the azaleas
Augusta National Womans Amateur 2019

Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey was walking on air after finishing 26th in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday.

With pop legend Niall Horan cheering her on, the 21-year Arizona State University star from Banbridge described the groundbreaking event as “the experience of my life so far,” and Augusta National as “mind-blowing” despite closing with a four-over 76 on the famous Masters course.

Level par through nine after following a bogey at the par-three fourth with a birdie at the tough fifth, she went for broke trying to emulate Phil Mickelson at the iconic 13th but found Rae’s Creek instead and took seven instead.

“I thought that shot Phil hit to the green from the trees on the right, if he can play that I can hit it from the fairway but unfortunately I hit it in the water,” she said with a grin.

“It’s just exciting to be out there. When you see the shots they've hit [in the Masters] it’s just mind-blowing to think they’ve pulled those shots off.”

Further shots would go on the 14th and 17th and she finished on five-over as American world number one Jennifer Kupcho shot 67 to win by four shots from Mexico’s Maria Fassi on 10-under.

“This week was by far the best experience I have had in my life,” added Olivia. “It was more than I could have ever imagined. The people watching, the magic of the place and knowing you are part of history.

“The course is so different to what I thought based on watching over the years. The elevations are crazy which I wasn’t aware of. The slopes on the greens are like nothing I have ever seen before.

“The most surprising for me was how demanding the course is off the tee. I didn’t believe it was based on what I saw on TV. My favourite hole is the 12th, which is pretty intimating giving how small the green is. But walking over the bridge with a putter in your hand is a fun feeling.

“My coach Donal [Scott] caddied all rounds. It was fun to experience this with him and have his help. Of course, I went to the merchandise pavilion and got some gifts for my family and friends. The store is amazing and it’s hard to not buy a lot.

“We were also allowed to look in the Crow’s Nest where the amateurs stay during the Masters and we got to peek in the Champions’ locker room, which was cool.

“My family couldn’t be there due to work commitments but maybe I will get another chance to play there. It’s something I want to be part of again for sure.

“This was such a special week and being part of it and see the support for women’s golf means a lot. It really motivates me to continue to make a difference in this sport and compete at the highest level.

”Unfortunately I couldn’t watch the leaders coming in. I had a lot of media to do after and then my friends came to watch, so I spent some time with them. But it was great to meet Niall Horan and I have to admit I am a fan. I love what he does for golf and he really has a big impact in helping our sport.

“All in all, this was a week I will never forget. I’m just so grateful to have had the chance to play in this historic event.”