Homepage CoursesJuly, 2011
Two of NCG's finest argue over the Royal & Ancient game's inclusion for 2016
YES says Mark Townsend, who sees massive global gain for the game
EVERY four years I, like millions of others, settle down for long periods in front of the television over the course of a month to watch sports such as gymnastics, sailing, cycling, swimming, archery etc. Ordinarily I have no interest in any of these sports but, for a few days at least, I am as well briefed as anyone on the Keirin in the cycling or the Yngling in the sailing.
The reason, and I am not overly patriotic in the slightest, was that Great Britain picked up gold medals in these events and, as such, they receive a huge amount of coverage. Everyone has a story, we all love listening to them and the profile of the sport is raised through the roof. Thousands then give it a go.
Golf was up against baseball, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, softball and squash to get into the 2016 games. Now, I might be, well I am, ridiculously biased, but how much more appealing is four rounds of strokeplay, with 60 of the leading lights from both the men’s and women’s games, be compared to a spot of, for example, roller sports or softball?
A few players have already voiced their disapproval – golf doesn’t need the Olympics argues Geoff Ogilvy, the Games should go back to its amateur ways says Trevor Immelman. In an ideal world where money and sport don’t mix these might work, in the real world things, though, are very different.
Even now, but particularly in the years to come, the United States and Europe are going to have less of a say on the way the game is shaped. Finally, finally we will have a ‘World’ Golf Championship event played outside America when Shanghai plays host to the HSBC Champions tournament in November and, of course, the Race to Dubai, and all its millions will signal the climax to the European Tour season.
Some players might not be keen on another big event playing havoc with their schedules and Major dreams. Well, here’s a thing, the Olympics take place every FOUR years. And anyway all the leading governing bodies have agreed to alter their schedules in order to ensure that the Majors do not conflict with the week of the Olympic golf competition.
It is the players’ responsibility to, and yes it is a terrible phrase, ‘grow the game’. Every four years, for one week in the middle of the season, they should do everything in their power to be at the Games.
There are certain similarities between tennis and golf. Both are individual sports, played pretty much throughout the year and both have four tournaments bigger than any others, the Majors in golf, the Grand Slams in tennis, and the top players are measured generally by their performances in these. Tennis has been back in the Olympics – golf was actually part of the movement in 1900 and 1904 – since 1988 but there has been no clamour for getting it elevated to Grand Slam status. It is just different, a unique slant to an otherwise predictable calendar with a possible gold medal at the end of it.
Roger Federer has played in the last three and will continue to do so as long as he’s playing the game. He cites his reasons for participating as being important for the future generation, the opportunity to play for his country and the chance to ‘live the dream’, being part of the Olympic Village and part of the biggest sports event in the world.
Whether it is Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo golf should be part of the Olympics. The last word goes to Phil Mickelson.
”The Majors are incredibly big but we still capture the same audience that are already interested in the game. I can’t imagine how big the game can become in countries like China and India that has so many more people than the United States does.”
The crux of the matter is this: The Olympics is only special when the event in question is the pinnacle of an athlete’s career. NO says Dan Murphy, who says it contravenes the Corinthian nature of the Olympics
SORRY, have I missed something here? In precisely what sense is the Corinthian ideal of the Olympics going to benefit from some already very rich professionals squeezing an extra event into their already packed schedules to compete for a title they will have little true interest in winning?
Some of the biggest names in the game put their name to a brochure sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by the International Golf Federation (IGF).
It was certainly an impressive list – headlined by Tiger Woods and also signed on behalf of their respective countries by the likes of Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie.
So what is in it for them? Nobody would get paid for participating in the Olympics, it is true, but all of the above can hardly be unaware of the potential benefits it would bring. Lucrative sponsorship deals, course ‘designing’ and ambassadorial positions are always easier to come by for those at the very top of the game in the most visible positions.
Being involved in the Olympics would certainly fall into that category.
But it is hard to see how the Olympics benefits from the sport’s inclusion in this guise.
The crux of the matter is this: The Olympics is only special when the event in question is the pinnacle of an athlete’s career.
When it represents the culmination of four years’ – if not a lifetime’s – hard slog.
I hardly think that a quick dash from one continent to the next, squeezed in between the Wyndham Championship and Deutsche Bank, can be thought of in that way.
It is very hard to see the Olympics becoming a highlighting of the professional golf calendar. And the prospect of something akin to the World Cup, where recent pairs representing the United States have included Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker (2008) and Heath Slocum and Boo Weekley (2007), would truly be an insult to the concept of the Olympics. Nor would it do much for the reputation of the game.
Which is not to say that our sport does not have just as much right as any other to be included. After all, why should the likes of judo, gymnastics and weightlifting, to name three at random, be any more or less important to the quadrennial celebration of sporting excellence to golf?
They surely shouldn’t.
And why shouldn’t golf benefit from the kind of exposure that only the Olympics can bring? How many thousands of youngsters might be attracted to the game and what good might be done in bringing golf to an entirely new audience?
It is too good an opportunity to miss. So why include golf – but only for amateurs?
Then all those participating could show their commitment and devotion by stating they would accept no financial reward for the game in a bid to fulfil the dream of winning Olympic gold.
Yes, it might involve some tweaking of the current calendar – the Eisenhower and Espirito Santo competitions that make up the prestigious World Amateur Team Championship events would have to move away from Olympic years.
But it would give a huge boost to the amateur game, whose brightest stars are lost to the professional ranks in the blink of an eye these days.
It would be a competition that was true to the Olympic spirit.
And a whole new generation would take up and play the game with a new ambition burning brightly in the distance – the dream of winning Olympic gold, and that being the highest glory the game could bring them.