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We asked G-Mac if McDowell and McIlroy can bring home Olympic gold for Ireland

“I’d love to be there in Rio.”

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

GOLF WILL BE part of the Olympic Games next year for the first time in the modern era, but nobody’s sure to expect.

An Olympic gold medal is the grandest prize in the majority of sports which feature in the Games, but that won’t be the case for golf.

Every young player dreams of being a major champion, not an Olympian. Perhaps that will change eventually, but for now it’s difficult to know where a gold medal at Rio 2016 fits in the list of priorities for the world’s top golfers.

If Graeme McDowell can help Ireland to win gold next year, he’ll be in a good position to judge. McDowell became a major champion when he won the 2010 US Open, so we asked the Portrush man for his thoughts on the subject this afternoon.

“I think it’s an unknown quantity really, from a golfer’s point of view,” G-Mac told The42. “There’s been a lot of positive comments made from players and there’s been some negative ones too. Being part of the Olympics is a very special opportunity that not a lot of people get to do. Where does it sit alongside the major championships? I think we’ll grow into it.

“When you see that first Olympic golf tournament being held and people start to quantify what it means, and the first gold-medal golfers get on the podium under their national anthem, I think only then will we be able to quantify what it means to the game of golf.

“I think we all understand what it means globally, from a financial point of view and taking golf to under-developed parts of the world. And that’s one of the big keys to the game. But of course I’d love to be there in Rio and just be part of it. It’s going to be really cool and we’ll worry about where it fits into the golfing hierarchy later. I think it’s so hard to know.”

Rory McIlroy is certain to be part of Ireland’s Olympic team, but having endured a difficult 2015 thus far, McDowell knows he’ll need to improve on the course to make it to Rio too.

The relationship between McDowell and McIlroy was tested last year when McIlroy’s former management company Horizon — who also counted McDowell as a client — were forced into an out-of-court settlement with the world number one regarding contract negotiations. However, the pair have since put the issue behind them and McDowell is confident they can deliver Olympic success for Ireland together.

When asked if McDowell-McIlroy could be a winning team in Rio, G-Mac said: “I think it’s a pretty handy one, yeah. That’d be a pretty hand one. Although Rory’s about the only lock on the team right now and I need to get my act together.

“There’s only going to be one more spot, probably. Shane Lowry’s playing very well right now and Pádraig Harrington obviously won in the States earlier in the year, but yeah, I’d love to be there.”

Graeme McDowell with Ian Millmore, PJ  Kearney and Aine Mitchell Graeme McDowell with Ian Millmore, 8, from Artane, PJ Kearney, 4, Donegal, and Aine Mitchell, 8, Leitrim. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

We caught up with McDowell today at Portmarnock Golf Club for a chat about the G-Mac Foundation, a charity he set up to support children’s medical research.

Aer Lingus is continuing its long-running partnership with the G-Mac Foundation, through which it supports the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. Along with their families, Aer Lingus has flown recovering children from all over Ireland, who have been patients at Our Ladies Children’s Hospital, to Orlando.

“I wanted to help kids, I wanted to do something in Ireland and I wanted it to be cross-border.

“Any kid born in the whole island of Ireland with infant heart disease ends up in Crumlin. It was a great fit for me when I got to meet the doctors and nurses and families there. It’s been a fun journey,” said McDowell.

“With the Crumlin thing, we’ve been able to walk in and see the new wards being built, see families move into those new wards and really feel like you’re motivated to continue making a difference.

“We’ve had four or five dinners in New York where we’ve raised between half-a-million and a million dollars every time. We’ve probably been responsible for seven or eight million dollars of fundraising. To be able to see exactly where that’s going is very satisfying.

“We do a little trip every March where we fly eight families from Crumlin Children’s Hospital into Orlando, put them up at Disney World, give them tickets and some spending money and let them have four or five days there.

“We’ve partnered up with Aer Lingus, who’ve given us close to 40 return flights on an annual basis to be able to fly the kids in and give them the trip of a lifetime. It’s been very satisfying.”

Ahead of the start of the Irish Open, we’ll bring you more from G-Mac later in the week.

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Paul Dollery

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