Rio 2016: Justin Rose’s gold for Great Britain leaves a sense of regret for Irish golf fans

Rio 2016: Justin Rose’s gold for Great Britain leaves a sense of regret for Irish golf fans

AFTER the notable withdrawals of Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, Ireland's golfing ambitions had always looked ominous heading into the Olympics in Rio.

The series of pull-outs left veteran Padraig Harrington and rookie Seamus Power as the patriots next up to shoulder the nation’s hopes of a medal.

Having been a massive advocate of golf at the Olympics for years, it seemed it was destiny that Harrington would fly the flag in Rio, despite being way down the pecking order 12 months ago.

And after opening his campaign with a one-under 70 last Thursday, which was followed by rounds of 71, 67 and 73 to finish tied 21st, the Dubliner labelled the Irish golfing stayaways as 'sheep' when illustrating how special it was to be in Rio.

"The guys who haven't come, I think they're definitely losing out,” he said. “I said it to the guys walking off, 'Now we're Olympians and no one can take that away from us'.”

If only those Irishmen in superior form possessed the same level of desire and enthusiasm to be a part of Rio 2016 as the beaming Harrington, we could well have seen an Irish medal win.

However, that's not to say Team Ireland’s golfers disappointed in Rio. Seamus Power looked poised to be in the mix for a medal when he rose to just one shot off the bronze after 11 holes in the final round, but was undone as he bogeyed the 14th hole and double bogeyed the 15th.

The Waterford man finished in a respectable tie for 15th place after rounds of 71, 67, 74 and 67. Like Harrington, Power also spoke in glowing terms of the Olympics when interviewed by RTE Sport.

"Overall it was a great experience, I gave my best. It just wasn't meant to be. It's kind of one of those 'what could have been weeks'.

Whilst Power concedes a feeling of regret at his performance this week, the general consensus surrounding Irish golf at the Olympics will surely have been quite similar.

Great Britain's gold medalist, Justin Rose, mirrored Harrington and Power's delight at competing in Rio, describing his Olympic golf win as the best achievement of his career, despite having previously won a Major and numerous Ryder Cups.

The success of golf's inclusion in the Olympics for the first time in 112 years was clearly there to see. Surely the withdrawers back home will have watched on like the many Irish golf fans, pondering what might have been?