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RIO DE JANEIRO – In more than two decades as a pro, Adilson da Silva never felt nerves like this on the first tee.
Thursday wasn't any tournament.
It was the official return of golf to the Olympics, the first games in South America. And as the only Brazilian in the men's competition, he was chosen to hit the opening tee shot at Olympic Golf Course.
"I couldn't say I wasn't nervous, because I was nervous," da Silva said. "But at the same time, I still need to hit a good shot. Before I teed off, my head was everywhere. 'Just don't goof this. Don't make a scene.' But just toward the end, I managed to calm myself down."
Da Silva sent his drive soaring down the middle of the fairway and removed his cap as he looked back at the crowd, mostly golf officials who pushed to make golf part of the Olympic program again.
Walking over to his bag, his caddie patted him on the back.
His caddie is Andrew Edmondson, a tobacco buyer from Zimbabwe who once used an 11-year-old da Silva as his caddie during weekend rounds in Brazil and later brought him across the ocean to provide better golf instruction.
"It's the end of a long journey — or the beginning of a new one," said Peter Dawson, the president of the International Golf Federation who stood proudly on the first tee. "Adilson said it all. The relief on his face showed it was a lot more than a normal event."
The only disappointment for da Silva was a few concentration lapses that led to no birdies until No. 9, three bogeys on the back nine and a score that left him nine shots behind at the end of the opening round.
At least the tee shot went well, and da Silva only smiled when asked how he slept the night before.
"Look, it's in your mind. Everybody is talking about, your friends saying, 'Wow, it's such a nice thing to do,'" he said. "But I still need to hit the shot. So it was tough."
Most pleasing to da Silva was the crowd, which grew as the day wore on to resemble several PGA Tour events on a Thursday. Most of the Brazilians were following his group, and at one point he apologized to Graham DeLaet and Byeong Hun An for the extra commotion.
"They understand," he said. "They know that we are not there yet, but we're learning. People are there just to give us support."