OpinionTuesday, September 2, 2014
Olympics golf debuts without fanfare
Here’s what we thought we knew. Since the beginning of the modern Olympic Games, golf has been included just twice, in Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904. The men’s medals were contested over 36 holes while the women’s challenge, a mere 9-holer, did not survive the Paris inaugural.
Roll forward to Copenhagen 2009, when the IOC decided to reinstate golf for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, the golf course being constructed for the event has been fraught by timing setbacks, and plans to have a pre-Olympics test event have been shuffled forward to sometime late 2015.
What hit my incoming email last week thus came as a completely unannounced surprise. The headline read, GOLF — SWEDEN WIN GOLD AFTER DRAMATIC PLAY-OFF IN MIXED TEAM EVENT AT YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES, going on to state: “Sweden won the Gold Medal after a dramatic play-off victory over Korea in today’s final round of the Mixed Team event at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics at Zhongshan International Golf Club. There was also a play-off for the Bronze Medal with Italy edging out Denmark on the first extra hole.”
Could it really be possible that golf had been reintroduced to the Games, albeit the Youth section, with such lack of publicity? I dug deeper. Yes indeed.
Days earlier Italy’s Renato Paratore and So-Young Lee, of the Republic of Korea, had claimed gold medals in the men’s and women’s individual golf competitions, I read, confirming that these 54-hole tournaments, conducted by the International Golf Federation, were the first time golf was held in the Youth Olympics, which began in 2010 for male and female athletes aged 15-18.
Even more astonishing for lack of publicity was 16-year-old Tony Gil’s of Canada first-ever Olympics hole-in-one, a seven-iron ace on the third hole at Zhongshan International, on the very first day of golf’s long-awaited return to The Games.
So why did these Olympic championships not garner more attention? Surely it would have been the very best publicity for the IOC’s re-involvement with golf, and a perfect way to attract youngsters to the game and the Games. Frankly I have no answers, while equally mystifying was that the United States did not even send a team. At a time when youth involvement in golf needs every assist it can get, this can only be viewed as a sadly-wasted opportunity.
This week sees the start of two more weeks of ultra-competitive top-level amateur golf, the biennial World Amateur Team Championships, being held in Japan and also organized by the IGF. The ladies go first, playing for the Espirito Santo Trophy, with six of the top 10 finishers at the Youth Olympic Games in the field, including gold medalist So-Young Lee. The men’s Eisenhower Trophy gets underway next week.
And of course, don’t forget today’s the day the US and European Ryder Cup team captains announce their three-man picks to fill out the 12-man roster for the matches to be played late-September at Gleneagles, Scotland.