Adilson da Silva of Brazil hits the first ball on the first hole during the first round of the men's golf event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
His heart fluttered before the first shot. Tears flowed after the last.
A half-hour after Brazilian Adilson da Silva stood on the 18th green at the Olympic Golf Course and basked in the adulation of the hometown fans, he was still struggling to compose himself.
"Our time is going to come," he said. "This is exactly what we need for a start. Now we must organize and help grow this game."
Da Silva knows it won't be easy. Golf barely registers on the sports radar in this nation of 200 million, where futbol is king and volleyball, basketball, auto racing and mixed martial arts compete for the leftovers. He could walk down the center of the street in Copacabana wearing cleats and not be recognized.
"I'm not really famous," he blushed, "but this week the people made me feel so special. I will always be grateful for the honor and the affection they showed me.”
The 44-year-old and lone Brazilian in the field has never cracked the top level of the game. He plays most of his golf on the Asian and South African circuits, though da Silva held a card on the European Tour briefly and played in three British Opens.
Adilson da Silva of Brazil lines up a putt on the first green during the third round of the men's golf event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
He still recalls the jangling nerves as he tried to focus on the opening tee shot of the tournament. When his last putt dropped for a 69 Sunday, and a 1-over total for the tournament, he threw his golf ball into the gallery alongside the 18th green, doffed his cap and unfurled the Brazilian flag as cheers echoed on every side.
"This is going to stay in my mind forever. To see so many on a golf course in Brazil, especially so many kids ... made me proud to be a Brazilian," da Silva said. "I'm very busy with my golf the next few weeks ... but I owe all the people who made this beautiful thing happen.
"Someday," he added, "I will find a way to give something back."
— Olympic Golf (@OlympicGolf) August 14, 2016