James Crombie/INPHO
Rio 2016

Golfers who showed up humbled by those who fought to be here

“And then she tells us she’s a doctor as well. It’s like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding’ – and that’s what I mean by humbling.”

Sinéad O’Carroll reports from Rio de Janeiro

“I HAVE CRIED tears and spilled blood in trying to qualify for Rio,” tweeted Irish Olympian Darren O’Neill upon hearing that Rory McIlroy was not to travel to Brazil over fears of the Zika virus.

“Seriously? It’s the ultimate honour to represent your country at Olympics and we’ve top medical staff looking after us,” added modern pentathlete Natalya Coyle (in a tweet later deleted). 

The sporting world looked on, slightly unimpressed, as one by one golf’s top stars opted out of the 2016 Games for reasons as varied as Zika or needing rest or having busy schedules: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott… to name a few

In Ireland, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell (whose wife is expecting) and – to the surprise of many – Shane Lowry.

The Irish team – almost by default – would be Padraig Harrington and secondary-US tour player Seamus Power.

The pair, along with team captain Paul McGinley, are not regretting their decision.

“It’s even better than we thought it would be,” McGinley said following yesterday’s first round at the new course in Barra de Trujico.

“The word that comes to mind is inspired. Everybody is inspired by watching other athletes, being around other athletes. I think it is quite humbling that we are one of 28 sports… It’s all about your sport but to be one fish in a huge pool is quite humbling. I think that’s one of the things about the Olympics that makes it special.

I think the players who are here this week, will go away as better sportspeople because they will learn a lot.

McGinley says he has made a point of bringing the team to other sporting events while in Rio to ‘take it all in’.

On the eve of the first round of golf to be played at the Olympics since 1904, he attended Joe Ward’s fight in the company of other Team Ireland athletes.

“We were out with Sara Treacy (Ireland’s 27-year-old 3,000m steeplechaser), listening to her, talking to her, went to the boxing with her. [We were] asking her questions about her training, what she did, her diet, trainer, coach, and the dedication she has shown to her sport.

And then she tells us she’s a doctor as well. It’s like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding’ – and that’s what I mean by humbling.

Sara Treacy Karel Delvoije / INPHO Karel Delvoije / INPHO / INPHO

“There is a girl who gets – I don’t know – not very much in terms of income and grants and here she is an Olympian. And I think that is very, very humbling as a sportsperson in a sport like ours where we are paid vast amounts of money and get vast amounts of exposure.

My point is that going away from this as golfers secondly, we go away as better sportspeople from what we’ve learned and inspired by other athletes.

“But all of us go away as better people. That’s the thing I’m taking from it.”

But there are also ambitions within the Irish team for a bit of Olympic glory, albeit low-key following a round of 70 for Harrington and 71 for Power (leaving them at -1 and level par overnight).

“There is [a huge desire to win an Olympic medal with this team],” McGinley told The42.

Obviously, with Rory and Shane on the team, we would have been real, legitimate favourites to win a medal.

“But you never rule Padraig Harrington out. And Seamus Power is having a really good season in the secondary tour in America. We Irish, we’ll keep on fighting. And we have a lot of spirit, that’s for sure.

“Padraig has shown a bit of form in the last month and he’s really energised about the Olympics and golf being in the Olympics.

“With all his experience, if he gets any kind of a chance come Sunday. I think his experience might come to the fore.”

More from The42′s team in Rio: 

Padraig Harrington: ‘There were a lot of sheep… they kept just following each other out the door’

Hotline Rings Ep.4: Emotional table tennis matches and are we missing Billy Walsh?

We spoke to Annalise Murphy’s brother about what to look out for in Olympic sailing

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