A lot has happened in the game of golf since it last played the role of an official Olympic sport. The last gold medal was won by a Canadian golfer named George Lyon. He won the medal at the 1904 Summer Olympics held in St. Louis, MO.
The fight has been rekindled to once again bring golf into competition for a medal. The official decision will come in October 2009. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will meet on this date and vote on adding no more than two (maybe none) of seven elected sports. The seven sports that are competing for a spot are golf, baseball, softball, karate, roller sports, rugby, and squash. That’s right, I said squash!
In this week’s Trap Five, we’re counting down five of the larger issues in the “Golf in the Olympics”
The five items listed below seem to draw the most attention in Olympic golf discussions.
Number Five: Who Makes the Team?
There are mixed emotions when it comes to the players’ feelings on participation. I’ll just dedicate this section to quotes from a few players.
Tiger Woods: “It would be great to have an Olympic gold medal, but if you asked any players, ‘Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug?’ more players would say the majors.”
Padraig Harrington: “I would relish an opportunity to play for an Olympic medal as much as winning my first major championship. You never know, in 50 years maybe the Olympics will be the No. 1 major. It has to start somewhere. I would put it on my schedule now!”
Sergio Garcia: “I’d love to represent my country in the Olympic Games, but I wouldn’t give up the chance to win one of the four majors to win a gold medal.”
Number Four: Golf goes International!
Isn’t golf already an international game? We have the Ryder Cup: the U.S. versus Europe. We have the President’s Cup: the U.S. versus the rest of the world. To add to that list, there are four majors and four WGC tournaments, not to mention the deep list of non-American members of the PGA Tour. It seems that the majority of the LPGA today is International. Will golf in general be that much better off if some guy from Uganda finishes dead last in the Olympics?
Number Three: Stroke play or Match play?
So far the proposed format for the Games is 72 holes of stroke play. The stroke play would consist of a limit of three positions from each country. These three positions would be determined by the world rankings or wild cards. Okay, so now we have three top players from each country on a team. So far so good! But, you know there is always a but, USGA Executive Director David Fay acknowledges one snag in the “team” concept. Fay says, “The Olympics would be the only International event where golfers are competing for themselves, not their team. After all, golf is an individual sport.” So basically, the players are representing their country, but not as a team. I don’t know if I can really get enthusiastic about this idea.
Along these same lines is the amount of time it takes to play 72 holes of stroke play. The games are already crammed together like Tiger Wood’s gallery on the 72nd hole of the U.S.Open. How will 72 holes of stroke play get any television time between the acrobatic ping pong matches and the mesmerizing women’s volleyball? Not to mention that when a gold medal is on the line, the pace of play will be about as fast as a seven-year-old eating their peas.
On the other hand, you have the option of match play. Head-to-head combat between different countries! Now it’s survival of the fittest. One major drawback to this idea is the chance that some of the big names could be clocking out early. If this were to happen, I would be willing to bet that the television ratings would drop like a sack of potatoes!
Number Two: Make an Appointment
I am certain that I am not the only addict that loves that fact that I can get my “golf fix” weekly with tournaments on television. It’s great, right? This feeling leads me to my next concern. With so many tournaments already on the yearly schedule, what will have to give to make time for the top players to participate in the Olympics?
The top players plan their schedule so that they can play well in the majors, with breaks planned accordingly. I am sure that most players and the PGA Tour would alter their schedules for the Olympics, but at what cost to the regular schedule? Will tournaments be moved? Will tournaments be cancelled?
Number One: Show Me the Money!!!
The growth of the game is one of the key ingredients in the recipe of golf in the Olympics. While I am all for increasing the number of participants by millions, I keep hearing the term “financial” tossed around. Hearing this word used, one can only assume that someone, somewhere has been pounding their calculators with a Joker-type smile thinking of the river of cash that could be flowing their way with this induction.
I believe this mindset completely contradicts the true reason golf should be a part of the two week international showcase. One of the better terms that I hear is the word “growth.” This gives a better impression than just thinking of making the golf community more money. The hope is that golf in the Olympics would open up more money that could then be reinvested into golfing facilities, coaching, and scholarships for developing countries. In many of the countries, golf has taken a back seat to any Olympic sport. The Olympic sports seem to receive more public and private funding.
If golf gets voted in as an Olympic sport, then these countries would ideally receive more money and thus grow tremendously through countries where it has not taken offas of yet. I can only hope that, if chosen, golf is chosen for the right reasons.
I’ll bring this to a conclusion with my vote. I think we should stop trying to add every sport we can think of into the Olympics as the games are beyond full already. If, for some reason, golf wins over baseball, softball, karate, roller sports, rugb, or squash, I would much rather see the world’s top amateurs battle it out than the professionals.
This article was written by a guest author. If you’d like to contribute, send us an email.