Shes coming home: Young Kiwi golf pro ecstatic to win place in MIQ

A young Kiwi golfer, distressed at being trapped in the US for the past five months, has finally won a place in the MIQ lottery. Jane Phare reports.

Pro golfer Amelia Garvey is not sure who cried more tears this week, her or her mother Beverley. Last week a distraught Garvey described the New Zealand MIQ lottery system as”a cruel game” after trying unsuccessfully to get a place for five months.

The 21-year-old sportswoman has been in the US for a year and, since her debut as a professional at the US Women’s Open in June and finishing her degree at the University of Southern California, has been trying to return home.

Last year she missed out on an MIQ spot when she was trying to join her parents and two sisters,Paige and Tiana, in Christchurch for Christmas. This year repeated efforts to gain a place in the hopelessly overburdened MIQ system left Garvey disillusioned and emotionally strung out, with thousands of other desperate Kiwis ahead of her in the queue.

But yesterday Garvey’s father Lee logged on to an MIQ lottery on his daughter’s behalf and rang her in Los Angeles to say he had a room.

“There was 4000 rooms put up and that’s the most they’ve done in a while,” Garvey said from Los Angeles today. “My Dad got in and I was (number) 3300 and something so I was over the moon but I didn’t know what date I was going to get. I thought with more than 3000 people in front of me they’ll probably get November and December.”

Lee Garvey, too, was worried that Amelia’s place in MIQ would be bumped to February when she is due back in the US to begin competing in golf tournaments until the end of 2022.

On the phone together, Lee Garvey first told his daughter a room was available on November 19 so she quickly began to arrange a flight from LA to Auckland on November 17.

“You’re on the site with a bunch of other people. It’s almost like trying to get festival tickets or something like that. You’ve got to be really, really quick.”

Their first attempt failed, leaving Garvey thinking she wouldn’t make it home for Christmas.

“He (Lee) was holding the hotel room while I booked the flight and made sure it linked up with the time difference. He went to click on it and it (the room) had gone. Someone had grabbed it.”

Minutes later her father rang back to say he had secured an MIQ room for next Tuesday and that Amelia needed to quickly book a flight for Sunday.

“I accidentally paid for about four different bags because I was rushing. It’ll be a quick turnaround and I’ve got a lot of packing to do and a lot of people to say goodbye to, but I am just over the moon that I’ll be back with my parents.”

Since graduating in May Garvey has been staying with college friends, couch surfing and staying in spare bedrooms. Her parents have been sending money to help support her. Last week she told the Herald she was feeling homeless and “hopeless” after repeated attempts to secure an MIQ spot.

Garvey’s mother Beverley told the Herald last week that being stranded in the US was affecting her daughter mentally and emotionally.

Now the tears on the mother-and-daughter Facetime calls are tears of happiness.

“We are so thrilled. It’s amazing. I think we were in shock.”

She was frustrated by the MIQ system, particularly as New Zealanders with Covid-19 were now isolating at home, she said. Amelia, and others returning from overseas, would need to have a negative Covid-19 test before they boarded their flight to New Zealand.

“We are one of the only countries in the world that have resorted to locking out their citizens which is such a shame,” she said. “Even yesterday when Amelia got a space in the lottery I cried for all the people that didn’t. You are going through those experiences soyou know what it feels like for other people.”

The MIQ booking system had been extremely stressful for her husband and daughter.

“You only get 15 minutes to book all your flights and if you don’t do it in that time you get thrown out. Once you get your spot you’ve got to try and organise everything. Even that in itself is awful.”

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