Annalise Murphy on hand as Ireland plot course to golfing victory

High expectations are part and parcel of elite sport but the trio of women seeking gold for Ireland in this week’s World Amateur Team Championships have taken steps to beat the pressure.

Annalise Murphy on hand as Ireland plot course to golfing victory

By Brian Keogh

High expectations are part and parcel of elite sport but the trio of women seeking gold for Ireland in this week’s World Amateur Team Championships have taken steps to beat the pressure.

Whatever about trying to enjoy the week or focusing on taking it one shot at a time, there’s nothing like some practical advice from an elite Irish sportswoman to put your mind at ease.

Olympic yachtswoman Annalise Murphy stole Irish hearts in Rio de Janeiro two years ago when she won a silver medal in the Laser Radial class.

And she was on hand at Carton House on Sunday to give Lurgan’s Annabel Wilson, Lisburn’s Paula Grant, and Royal County Down’s Olivia Mehaffey some practical advice on dealing with the pressure of going for glory on home soil.

While Ireland won its first medals in the World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico two years ago, claiming bronze in both the women’s Espirito Santo Trophy and the men’s Eisenhower Trophy, it’s only natural for them to want to put on a show on home soil.

While Leona Maguire has since turned professional, Mehaffey and Wilson were part of the team that won bronze at Mayakoba El Camaleon Golf Club and they’d love to improve on that with Grant, a member of the 2014 side, joining them in Maynooth for tomorrow’s first round in the 72-hole strokeplay event over the Montgomerie and O’Meara courses.

“I thought she was really inspirational because she talked about how she was expecting a medal at the London Olympics and then it didn’t go her way,” Curtis Cup player Grant said of their chat with Murphy, who looked destined to win gold in London and ended up fourth.

She spoke about how she had to put all her energy into forgetting about that and just taking the next tournament and giving it her best.

“Then she was saying how similar it is to golf, which we didn’t realise but it is, because they have six days of races, so you need to keep your head up if one thing hasn’t gone your way.

“Say you have a bad hole and make a bogey, you can’t just then throw the head and give up because it’s such a long week. She was so positive and encouraging. She was saying to treat the tournament like any other tournament you play and prepare the best that you can.”

Murphy knows all about dealing with high expectations on home soil and her gold medal performance in the 2013 European Championships in Dublin was encouraging for Wilson, who might be the baby of the team at 17 but exudes a maturity behind her years.

She had Europeans a few years back on home soil as well so it was good to see how she coped with that and the home crowd,” Wilson said. “It was a really good chat about how she prepared for Europeans in Dun Laoghaire.

The Irish team is captained by Danielle McVeigh, a former elite amateur and Ladies European Tour professional who knows all about dealing with adversity.

She walked away from tour life a few years ago, speaking openly and impressively about her battle to overcome depression while trying to compete with some of the world’s best golfers.

She’s watched Ireland’s women become world beaters in recent years and she sees no reason why the Irish trio that will tee it up with defending champions South Korea for the first two rounds cannot contend for the ultimate prize “No reason at all,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. These girls are world class.”

Mehaffey, 20, knows how to perform at the highest level, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in her first season with Arizona State, where she is about to start her third year.

She qualified for the US Women’s Open earlier this season and she knows what she wants from the week.

“Being in Ireland, it would be amazing to win a medal,” the Co Down native siad. “I love playing in front of a crowd. I love anywhere I go having people watch me. It’s something I really thrive off.”

A record 57 teams have entered the 28th Women’s World Amateur Team Championship with the Republic of Korea bidding for their fourth win in five editions following their wins in 2010, 2012, and 2016.

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