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Stephanie's back in the swing of things after hard 18 months

By Paul Kelly

Olympics-inspired Stephanie Meadow is aiming high after rediscovering her mojo on the fairways of Rio de Janeiro.

"It's a daft game," said the Jordanstown-born golfer, who turns 25 later this month. "If you are struggling with confidence it only takes one shot, one round to get things moving in the right direction."

Stephanie's moment came on the second day of competition in Brazil when, representing Ireland, she signed for a five under par 66.

"My form had started to turn upwards a bit before the Olympics but that kind of topped it off," said Stephanie, who has recently agreed a new sponsorship deal with financial services firm Investec.

"That was the first time I'd put together a good round against the top girls in a while. Being able to do that in a high pressure situation was a bit of like, 'okay, I'm back!'

"I had been playing well at home from March/April time and I was waiting, waiting, asking myself, 'why is this not happening in tournaments?' and then finally it happened, it was perfect timing.

"You can only work so hard without seeing results, so that was a key moment for me last season."

Stephanie forced her way into the public consciousness by finishing third in the US Open on her professional debut in 2014, but the death of her ill father in May 2015 hit her hard. She struggled to concentrate on the course and lost form and confidence.

She said: "I'm not going to lie, last season was no fun early on. I don't care who you are, playing like I was playing is no fun.

"I would be on the course, I would be trying to focus and I just couldn't - my mind was so filled with other stuff.

"When you are in a constant state of emotional distress, you can't perform well, it applies to everyone, it doesn't matter who you are."

It's taken her the best part of 18 months to finally feel like she has turned a corner and she's now looking to force her way back up the rankings.

"Personally and as a golfer, I feel like I'm coming out of a rough spell," she said.

"What happened (the death of her father) will always affect me and be with me. But there comes a time when although it doesn't hurt less, you learn how to deal with it."

Currently ranked 259th in the world, Stephanie is hoping to start her LPGA 2017 season at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in February (13-19).

"I would like to be in the position where I make it into the Asian swing (at the start of October)," she added. "That's top 60 on the money list and a realistic goal if I get to play in 17/18 events.

"I am a lot more confident now and if I get on a roll, you never know. In the future I want to be higher than that but start small and keep improving."

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