Golf’s return to the Olympics has so far been covered in controversy.
A host of abstentions from many of the world’s top male players has led to some claiming that Olympic golf should be restricted to the amateur game. Others are even questioning why it’s there at all.
Try telling that to Stephanie Meadow.
The Jordanstown girl is teaming up with Leona Maguire, Padraig Harrington and Seamus Power to form Ireland’s golf team in Rio. As she is in the midst of her preparations, there is no question over the tournament’s significance.
More than that, she’s determined to help make sure the women’s tournament leaves everybody else in no doubt that she’s right.
“I think it’s definitely up there with the majors,” she said.
“It’s a tough call but I’m glad that it’s for professionals, as are a lot of the top women golfers in the world. Hopefully we can do something to show that at the Games.
“When you look at the other sports, like basketball, they earn massive amounts of money in the NBA but the Olympics is still the top of every sport.
“The top amateur golfers are nearly all turning pro now so even if they waited a couple of years, they will get their chance.”
Stephanie knows all about competing at the very top. She made her LPGA Tour debut at the US Open just two years ago and flew to a third place finish.
With that came almost overnight fame. It’s fair to say that since then, life on Tour has provided its struggles for the 24 year-old, with just one cut made in six major championships.
Her troubles last year, ironically, she says, came from over-practicing and over-thinking.
Approaching the Olympics though, her only musings are ones of positivity. Is she even aiming for a medal?
“Definitely,” she replied. “I always go out to compete and to win. I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t think I could do it.
“I’ve had some great preparation the last week and a half with my coaches and I’ve had a chance to work on some things that I normally wouldn’t be able to work on.
“It would be really nice to be able to get a medal and I think I can do it.”
Golf can often be a sport of individuality. You against the world. But next week, Stephanie will have the backing of over six million Irish men and women.
“Any time you represent your country, it adds something extra,” she said. “It’s great to have the amazing support of your whole country behind you.
“The scale of the Olympics means that a lot of people who wouldn’t normally have an interest in golf are going to watch it and you want to represent your country well.
“It’s a nice change, being part of Team Ireland. It will be nice to watch a few of the other sports and do those things that aren’t a regular experience week in, week out on tour.”
It’s the whole sideshow that will set the tournament apart for Stephanie. On the course, it will be the same 72 holes standing between her and success. Off it, she will be part of one of the biggest sporting shows on earth.
“Growing up, it never really crossed my mind that this would be a possibility,” she confessed. “Golf just wasn’t talked about as an Olympic sport but since they announced it, it has been a big goal of mine.”
Stephanie will take to the purpose-built Olympic Golf Course from 17-20 August in her bid to win a medal.
And even a repeat of her 2014 US Open heroics would be good enough for that.