Ireland’s Olympic golf team determined to shine despite Zika controversy

Ireland’s Olympic golf team determined to shine despite Zika controversy

They may not be the first-choice selections but the golfers representing Ireland in Rio next month are fully focused on winning Olympic glory for Ireland.

After Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell ruled themselves out of contention for the team, the male pairing was yesterday confirmed to be Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power.

Leona Maguire, the Cavan native currently ranked world number two in amateur golf, will represent Ireland in the women’s event.

Three-time major winner Harrington is currently preparing for the British Open at Troon this weekend and discussed how important an Olympic medal would be to him.

“It would be massive,” he told the Irish Examiner. “I don’t know that winning a fourth major would make a massive difference to my career, but winning Olympic gold does.”

There has been much suggestion that the Olympic competition isn’t important to golfers but Harrington said that was not always the case. Lowry, McIlroy and a host of other big names in golf cited fears about the Zika virus as the reason for their withdrawal.

“The main withdrawals come from countries that being an Olympic champion is not a big deal in. The Dutch guys didn’t pull out, the Danish guys didn’t pull out, the Koreans didn’t pull out. None of the countries where winning an Olympic gold is a massive deal pulled out.”

29-year-old Waterford native Seamus Power plays his golf on the Web.com tour, the second tier in the US, and told pgatour.com he is determined to make the most of this chance to shine on a global stage.

“Obviously it won’t be our first choice of team to go, but it’s a great opportunity,” Power said. “I’m confident if I’m playing well -- there’s only 60 guys in a 72-hole stroke event -- there’s no reason why I couldn’t win a medal.”

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