The first Major golf week since the return of the LPGA and LET Tours is upon us and three players from the island of Ireland will tee it up at Royal Troon from August 20 – 23.

Leona Maguire, Stephanie Meadow and Olivia Mehaffey (AM) join the strong field for the AIG Women’s Open where Hinako Shibuno of Japan is defending champion.

Meadow enters the event on the back of two consistent finishes at the LPGA Drive On Championship (T40) and the Marathon Classic (T20) while Maguire made the decision to stay at home to play the Scottish Women’s Open in preparation for Royal Troon.

Mehaffey would have had turned Professional under ‘normal’ circumstances at the beginning of this summer, but the global pandemic has put her transition on hold for another year.

‘Initially it was very disappointing but I’m now looking at it as an extra year where I have the opportunity to represent my college and Ireland. I think I felt worse last year when I missed the summer season due to injury as it was sort of my own doing, this year everyone is in the same situation so it’s easier to take.’

There was no competitive golf for Mehaffey for nearly four months following her tied 6th place and ASU Team win at the Dr Donnis Thompson Invitational in Hawaii last March. A flash decision to fly home was made and, like many others, a reassessment of her plans closely followed.

‘I actually enjoyed being home during the lockdown. I spent a lot of time with my family which was nice and I was luckily able to work on my game with the facilities I had access to.

‘Since restrictions have been lifted here I’ve been playing golf nearly every day. There have been a few events, the Irish Scratch Series, the Irish Golfer Shootout and a couple of Scratch Cups so it’s been great to get sharp again.’

Since restarting competition, Mehaffey’s scoring has been on fire including a seven-under par 66 at Tandragee and an eight-under par 66 in round two to win the Woodbrook Scratch Cup.

Although not yet a Professional, the 2020 AIG Women’s Open will be the fourth Major Championship Mehaffey has competed in, having played at the 2019 US Open and two previous AIG Women’s Open’s.

‘Every time I’ve been able to tee it up with the Pro’s I think I’ve learned a great deal from their game and what it takes to be at the top.

‘When I look back on Majors I’ve played in the past, what I take is that I’ve progressed my game in different areas. Playing at Woburn for example I was hitting the ball so low and I couldn’t stop it on the greens. I saw the other players who hit it higher and that’s something I’ve really worked on and I feel I have a lot more control.

‘You learn a lot but I feel now I’m at the stage where I’ve played in a number and have that experience so I’m not just going to make up the numbers I really want to go and compete.’

Royal Troon on Scotland’s west coast is a familiar setting to Mehaffey who won the Scottish Women’s Amateur Stroke Play there in 2015 and was runner-up the following year.

‘I love Royal Troon, it’s such a great golf course and I have a lot of great memories there. It’s definitely nice to go somewhere you feel familiar and comfortable with the surroundings. Going back there will be very enjoyable, I’m really looking forward to the week, I think it’s going to be fun.’

Many players have expressed their delight to be back to competitive golf in recent weeks, however tournaments now look very different to pre-Covid-19 times.

‘The restrictions are going to be pretty strict,’ explains Mehaffey. ‘We arrive on Sunday and will have to get tested. You go straight to the hotel and can’t leave until you get your results. Then you’ve to stay between the golf course and the hotel all week in your bubble.

‘We won’t be able to go to the shop or a restaurant or anything so it will be strange but it makes complete sense given the circumstances.’

In the short term Mehaffey has decided to return to undertake a Master’s degree at ASU before turning to the professional ranks in 2021.

‘It’s looking like I’ll head straight back to Arizona after the Women’s Open to quarantine for two weeks then I’ll play the ANA Inspiration [from 10-13 September].

‘We don’t really know yet what’s happening with our college events, I know some conferences have cancelled the initial season but the decision on our events will be made later in the month.’

‘I’ll head out there [Arizona] and use the opportunity to practice and work on my game. Palmer Cup is scheduled for before Christmas but I don’t really think there will be much competition other than that.’

Many players have expressed their delight to be back to competitive golf in recent weeks, however tournaments now look very different to pre-Covid-19 times.