RIO DE JANEIRO — Maria Verchenova was uncertain if she would even make it to Rio for the women’s Olympic golf tournament. Her status in the Games was out of her hands, due to Russia’s doping issues that required each athlete to be approved.
She finally got the go-ahead, and on Saturday, Verchenova shot the round of her life, a 9-under 62 that was the best in two weeks of Olympic golf.
It didn’t earn her a medal, but it did give Verchenova a sense of accomplishment.
“I felt good all four days,” she said. “All four days, I was into my meditations. I was practicing a lot. I was trying to eat good. But you just never know. It’s just one of the days when I was holing putts.”
Verchenova, 30, plays on the Ladies European Tour and bounces between her native Moscow, London and Houston. Two weeks ago she was in Texas, awaiting final word on whether she would be allowed to compete.
Because of the doping scandal that rocked the Russian Olympic contingent, every athlete had to be approved to compete.
“I couldn’t say I was worried because I was sitting in Houston and it was 10 days before coming here and it was still not confirmed for me,” she said. “It was testing me, and I was like, it was getting serious. I didn’t realize they took so many Russian athletes out. I was like, just keep practicing, doing my stuff, and see how it comes over.”
Verchenova, the only Russian golfer in the men’s and women’s tournaments, made the best of her situation. After rounds of 75-70-73, she caught fire on the final day — even making a hole-in-one — and climbed some 25 spots into the top 20 on the leaderboard.
“I think the whole thing is just me being here and playing here,” she said. “It means a lot because that’s going to push Russian golf forward, and that’s what we need, because Russian golf is kind of steady now and it needs to be pushed forward.”