Scott Hend has seen a lot in his 19 years as a professional golfer.
However, even the experienced 42-year-old from Brisbane admits he is heading into the unknown at the Olympic Golf Course in Barra da Tijuca.
Golf will officially return to the Summer Olympic program for the first time in 112 years when local hero Adilson da Silva hits the first drive down the fairway tomorrow at 8.30am (AEST) – and the opportunity to play for Australia in Rio fills the Queenslander with pride.
Hend is the Australian men’s representative in the tournament along with Corowa-born Marcus Fraser.
“We have pressure week in, week out on tour,” said Hend. “This isn’t really pressure in my opinion. It’s about pride. We’re part of a wider Australian team.
“Marcus [Fraser] and I have tried to embrace the Olympic spirit best we can in the time we’ve been in Rio. We’re off to watch the Australian basketballers tonight and we’ve been to the village to mix with other Australian athletes.
“I met Gemma Etheridge [member of the gold medal-winning rugby sevens team] earlier today and it was pretty cool. I saw her on the golf simulator at The Edge, and I’ll tell you what, she might play in Tokyo in 2020! Again though, it just shows what it’s like for me to be part of a team. It’s unique.
“I’m proud to be here. Marcus is proud to be here. This has a very different feel to it. But look through the field for the tournament and it’s full of past major champions and current major champions. It’ll be high quality and very competitive.”
And despite some of the highest-ranked golfers withdrawing from the tournament for various reasons, Hend cannot wait to hit the course and compete against the likes of golfing prodigy Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Britain’s Justin Rose and Spanish legend Sergio Garcia.
“It’s going to be pure! It was a little bit wet with a bit of rain about today but I think tomorrow will just be a bit breezy on the course. Given the course is new I think it’ll be pretty slow but I do think scoring will be low.”
And on the Australians’ prospects in the strokeplay competition?
“Marcus and I are here to compete for a medal. We’re playing well but no-one here has ever played for a medal in the Olympics so it’s going to be a different kind of pressure.
“We’re here playing for not just ourselves, but our families and 20 million Australians.”