Paraguay’s Julieta Granada knows what it’s like to break new ground in women’s golf.
She was the first player to take home a $1 million paycheck in a woman’s event when she won the ADT Championship 10 years ago. An LPGA rookie at the time, she beat out Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr, the biggest names in the game in ’06, in an upset at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Granada, 29, would relish pulling another upset to become the first woman in golf to win an Olympic gold medal. Yes, the first. When Margaret Abbott won first place in Paris in 1900, the first time golf was played in the Olympics, Abbott didn’t win a gold medal. She won a porcelain bowl. It was actually the first year women were allowed to compete in any Olympic sport. Women’s golf was dropped after that first year, with only the men going on to play golf in the ’04 Olympics.
Granada is among 60 women who will compete in the Olympic women’s event next week in Rio de Janeiro.
No athlete from Paraguay has ever won a gold medal in the Olympics. The only medal Paraguay has ever won was a silver, in soccer, in 2004.
“It would be huge,” Granada said of winning gold for her country. “There wouldn’t be anything bigger.”
Granada and European Tour pro Fabrizio Zanotti are among the 11 athletes on the Paraguay Olympic team. Granada was honored to be chosen to carry Paraguay’s flag and lead the team into the Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
“It was an experience unlike any other,” Granada said. “I don’t think us golfers have ever experienced anything as big. It was a football stadium, and there were so many people, so many countries waiting to go into the stadium. It was overwhelming. You experience so many emotions. It’s a moment I will never forget.”
Granada said she will also never forget having her mother, Rosa, there in the stands. Rosa has been Julieta’s caddie since she turned pro 11 years ago. Rosa will be toting Julieta’s bag again next week in Rio.
“It was really special for her to be there,” Granada said. “The success I have had, a lot of it is thanks to her, so I really wanted her to be there.”