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Paul McGinley excited by Rio challenge

By Karl MacGinty

Paul McGinley probably was the most fastidious Ryder Cup captain in history. Even Europe's players were blown-away by the Dubliner's attention to detail as he masterminded last September's victory at Gleneagles.

So it's no surprise to learn that before agreeing to accept the honorary position of Ireland's Team Leader for Golf at the 2016 Olympics, McGinley first made sure to tick all the boxes, running the idea in front of those it'd affect most, the players currently in contention for places in Rio and, of course, his family.

World No.1 Rory McIlroy, who played an influential role in McGinley's appointment as European skipper and then a leader on the course in Scotland, gave the proposal a hearty thumbs-up, as did Graeme McDowell and Ireland's leading female golfer, Stephanie Meadow.

Yet McGinley, 48 next week, revealed that it was the reaction at home, when he broke the news to wife Alison and their three children, Niamh, 15, Killian, 14, and Maia, 12, that best conveyed the massive potential impact of golf's readmission to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

"To be honest, they were more excited about me taking on this role than the Ryder Cup captaincy," he explained. "It just shows you how big the Olympics are.

"We went to the Olympics as a family four years ago in London and that was special," added McGinley.

"So it's going to be really nice to represent Ireland and to have the family over but it's much, much more than that.

"It's really exciting," the Dubliner explained, underlining the pioneering nature of golf's mission in Rio: "We are going into the unknown.

"In the Ryder Cup, I knew what I was doing. I'd been involved in so many before, moving into the captaincy, I knew the role, what it was all about and what went on behind the scenes.

"Yet this is a big question mark for all of us in golf, from all the players on tour and those in management or administration. So I see my role as being right in the middle, there, getting all the information and making it as seamless as possible for the players to perform in the Olympic arena.

"It's going to be my job to glue everyone and everything together. I've had a number of conference calls gathering information in the last month."

He's relishing the chance to work alongside elite athletes and experienced team personnel in other sports.

"I'm looking forward to seeing people like Katie Taylor and that and spending time around them and getting to know them and meeting the other Olympic team leaders over the next couple of years in Ireland and being part of the Olympic spirit that we have in Ireland. There's a huge team element to it. More so than at the Ryder Cup."

McGinley's appointment richly endorses the decision of Ulster natives McIlroy, McDowell and Meadow, to represent Ireland in Rio.

Though each has a long and distinguished competitive record in the green, which under rules carefully drafted by the IGF, bound them to Ireland at the Games, as UK citizens, legally they could have insisted otherwise.

With McGinley in charge, they'll be involved with one of the best prepared and motivated golf teams in the quest for Olympic gold.

Redmond O'Donoghue, Chairman of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, wrote to McGinley offering him the position "just over a month ago."

McGinley recently underwent minor surgery on his left knee, his eighth procedure, and faces a six week lay-off before resuming his professional playing career in the new year.

He'll play 15 events on Tour next year, also combining his new Olympic role with his duties as pundit for Sky TV at the Majors and World Golf Championships and several successful business initiatives.

Belfast Telegraph

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