A year in an east Cork boarding school. And a golf lesson with Barcelona’s Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr.
Agueda Cortilla Mas, who plays golf off a 0.5 handicap, is the link between these two vastly different experiences.
The Spaniard spent the 2013-14 school year in Midleton College and would go on to star alongside Brazil’s danger man in Panasonic’s latest ad ahead of Rio 2016.
“Every year Panasonic do an ad with Neymar playing a random sport. It started when they called me and told me that they were looking for girls who play golf.” the Barcelona native explained.
“I went to the auditions and they told me that it consisted of teaching Neymar how to play golf, which I didn’t expect at all.”
“Loads of girls went to the auditions and they were all older than me so I thought I wouldn’t be picked. A few days later, I got a call saying that I was chosen for the ad.”
Already an accomplished golfer at 17, her extensive trophy cabinet includes the Catalan Championship, ‘La Copa Comunidad Valenciana’ as well as a third place finish at the Spanish Tournament.
Teaching someone as famous as Neymar a new sport was daunting but any awkwardness soon vanished after a few minutes and the striker expressed his gratitude to Agueda after the ad was shot.
“He never played golf before so it was a little bit awkward starting the lesson. But after the first few shots he started joking around, playing soccer with the golf ball and all that. After we finished recording he came over to my dad and thanked him for what I did because he knew it wasn't easy.”
So grateful was the striker that he wanted to learn even more. There could have more chapters to this golfer’s remarkable Neymar story, had school not got in the way.
“Afterwards, I was going to my changing room and his manager asked me for my phone number. He told me that Neymar enjoyed the lesson and that he wanted to do more. The next day they called me but I couldn’t answer because I was in school.”
So why did Agueda decide to move to an east Cork town three years ago?
The pressures that high level sport present - be it playing for Barcelona or making a name for yourself in women’s golf - can be mentally exhausting. So exhausting that Agueda opted to take a hiatus from the demands and go abroad.
“My parents thought it was important for me to learn English as it was very bad,” she explains
“So they decided to send me abroad because it’s the best way to learn it and I also needed to have some time off from golf.”
“I decided to come to Ireland and I ended up in Midleton College, where I had the best year of my life. I made some of my best friends there. I even learned to play hockey and spent the last three months with East Cork Golf Club as I needed to touch a club again after six months.”
“We started looking at schools in England but I heard that the people over there aren’t as friendly as the Irish!”
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