EUROPE’S Captain Fantastic Paul McGinley will lead Ireland’s golfers into the fray at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
McGinley, who brilliantly masterminded Europe’s Ryder Cup victory over the US in September, was confirmed as ‘Team Leader’ for the Irish men and women golfers in Rio at an Olympic Council of Ireland media briefing in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel.
The Dubliner, 48 next Tuesday, was appointed by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, the sport’s new umbrella body, comprising the Golfing Union of Ireland, Irish Ladies Golf Union and Irish Region of the Professional Golfers Association.
“I was approached by Redmond O’Donoghue about a month ago,” said McGinley. “I canvassed the opinon of players who potentially could be on the team, as things stand right now, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell and Stephanie Meadow.
“My family are absolutely delighted, probably more excited than they were for the Ryder Cup. We went to the Olympics in London as a family and they all want to know if they can go to Rio,” he laughed. “It is exciting, this is something entirely new in modern golf.”
The Ryder Cup captaincy is a once-in-lifetime role so Rio will give McGinley another precious chance to put his gift for man-management and passion for team sport to good use. Without doubt, he’ll once again pour heart and soul into preparing our golfers for the game’s return to one of sport’s most exalted stages.
McIlroy, 25, who as World No 1 played a key role in McGinley’s appointment as Ryder Cup captain and then performed as a true team leader in Scotland, will relish the opportunity to work with the Dubliner once again in the team arena.
“I can’t say enough about the captain, Paul McGinley has been absolutely immense,” said McIlroy after a comprehensive win for Europe that left the Americans in disarray. Phil Mickelson tore a strip off his captain Tom Watson in the aftermath, while the PGA of America set up a Task Force to try and find a solution to their Ryder Cup ills.
McIlroy ended years of intense speculation about which team he’d represent, Ireland or Britain, in Rio when he opted to once again wear the same green shirt he wore throughout his amateur career, not forgetting professional golf’s World Cup.
McGinley’s appointment, announced at a reception hosted by the Olympic Council of Ireland at Dublin’s Westbury Hotel this morning, perfectly endorses McIlroy’s decision on his Olympic destiny, announced on the eve of last June’s Irish Open at Fota Island.
Graeme McDowell, who also was inspired by McGinley’s man management skills at The Ryder Cup, also is intent on winning his place on the Irish team in Rio and, as No 15 in the world, would automatically qualify for the team if the Olympics were taking place tomorrow.
McDowell played a huge part in helping prepare debutant Victor Dubuisson for the Ryder Cup and after playing with the gifted Frenchman in two comprehensive foursomes victories, then led Europe into action on Sunday, fighting back for a crucial singles success over Jordan Spieth.
Like McIlroy, he’s a big fan of McGinley’s, recently saying: “For the first time even in my four Ryder Cups, the captain had a huge belief in me. It was really cool that a guy like Paul McGinley selected me to be a team leader. It was realisation for me that I’ve come a long way in the sport.”
Stephanie Meadow, 22, a sensational third place finisher on her professional debut in last June’s US Open at Pinehurst, and Alison Walsh, 27, the Galway-born LPGA Tour regular who currently holds American citizenship, both have committed to Ireland.
Typically, McGinley already has started preparatory work for Rio, arranging already a visit to the new golf course being built in the Brazilian city.