I don’t often write opinion pieces, but this is a topic that somewhat transcends my passion for golf and my day to day life as a administrator in the Canadian amateur sport system, so I have a soapbox and I am going to use it.
There has been a lot of talk about golf in the Olympics and how its going to fit into the Olympic model and whether it will be important enough for the players and whether the fans will embrace it, etc, etc.
With today marking 365 days until the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics in Rio (technically a year out, but golf event doesn’t start until 17th), a number articles came out, including:
Here are some of my thoughts in no particular order:
- To those saying golf isn’t a real sport, you have obviously have never played it, or at least never played it without the golf cart and cooler full of beer.
- To those saying it shouldn’t be an Olympic sport because its not a real sport, please take a look at the Olympic program, physical exertion is not the qualifying factor on Olympic sport or not (I am open to argument that maybe it should be).
- To those saying make Olympic golf for amateurs, you have missed the boat that sailed a couple decades ago. The athletes competing in every sport on the Olympic program are professionals. Some make way more money and have way more celebrity than others, but they all compete in their sport for a living, its their full time job.
- I like the qualification criteria because it is simple, but I hate the format of 72 hole stroke play. Would loved to have seen 2 person team event where you play a different format each day; Day 1 – Scramble, Day 2 – Alternate Shot, Day 3 – Best Ball, Day 4 – Stroke play (lowest team score counts).
- Why is golf on the Olympic program (IMHO):
- Professional golf (aka PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour) is a money making business;
- Professional golf has a large stable of fortune 500 sponsors;
- Professional golf has substantial TV deals that attract substantial viewers;
- All of the above provide direct or indirect benefit to the Olympics (aka IOC).
- Brand Association
- Professional golf gives millions back to charity annually, you want to associate with sports/businesses that do this.
- The Athletes
- Professional golfers are easily integrated into the Olympic model. They are used to competing in front of large crowds, dealing with media, following strict protocol and generally handling themselves in a manner that does not reflect poorly on the hand that feeds (Professional Tours).
- Depth of Field
- 8 different countries are represented in the top 15 in the world rankings as of today;
- Long shots have a legitimate chance of winning on any given week (Troy Merritt was ranked 180th going into last week);
- Some poor guys and gals are going to finish way back, but the battle for gold, silver and bronze should be tight.
- A couple legitimate reasons why golf maybe shouldn’t be in the Olympics
- Athletes don’t fully appreciate it (see any number of comments from tour players)
- Olympic golf will always be second rate to the majors (good argument against Tennis, Soccer, Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball as well)
- Many countries will not have high enough caliber courses so will have to build new ones at a huge expense (see Rio), which doesn’t fit with Olympic Agenda 2020.
A final thought. Golf will evaluate its success as an Olympic sport on how the Olympics contribute to the development of the game globally, specifically in new markets. The IOC will evaluate its success of having golf as an Olympic sport on how how many tickets it sells, how many sponsors it brings on board and how many people tune in to watch it on TV. Both of these evaluations are longitudinal studies that are not going to be answered via the 2016 Games, so lets revisit the success or failure of golf as an Olympic sport following the 2024 Games (in Toronto!) and just enjoy watching it for now.
See you at the turn,