Stephanie Meadow confident ahead of Olympic golf campaign
AS A youngster, Stephanie Meadow was fascinated with the Olympics and watched them with great interest. She never dreamt that, one day, she would be competing but now the opportunity has arrived and, this week, the former Co Antrim girl will tee-off as part of the Irish golf team in Rio.
Meadow, who is now domiciled in North Carolina and plays professionally on the LPGA Tour, will join up with Leona Maguire, Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power at the new Reserva da Barra golf course, as golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
“I never thought that I would be taking part in the Olympics and I'm really excited to be part of the Irish team. It was a really nice surprise when I got the call and Paul McGinley [team captain] has been in touch regularly with me over the past year,” said Meadow (24).
“I, of course, know Leona very well. We played together on Ulster and Irish amateur teams and in the Curtis Cup. I never met Pádraig before, but I knew a lot about him, as he has been one of Ireland's leading players for a long time, but I didn't know much about Seamus, until now.”
She added: “I have never been to Rio before, so this is all a new experience for me - one that I never thought that I would have.”
With all the talk about the Zika virus and so many golfers pulling out, was Meadow ever worried about travelling and taking part: “At the start, I was a little bit concerned but, after having a chat with the team doctor and getting his assurances, any concern I had disappeared. I know there has been a lot of controversy and it is a great pity so many golfers pulled out of the chance to play, but we have got to appreciate their priorities. Anyhow, I have no worries,” stressed the former British Amateur champion.
After taking time out from golf during her late father's illness, Meadow has now battled her way back into the groove and built up her status again. She has always been a hard worker at her game: “I have been playing very much regularly since May and picking up a few useful cheques. My game is pretty good, but I am not finishing off tournamants they way I should. From Rio, I will fly to Canada to play in two events there and, hopefully, add to my winnings enough to get me into some big tournaments that are upcoming,” she added.
The events in Canada Meadow has targeted are the $2.25m Canadian Pacific Open in Calgary and the $1.5m Monulife Ladies' Classic in Ontario. The Olympics golf tees-off on Thursday and will feature 72-hole individual men's and women's strokeplay competitions.