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What Olympic golf should be

You read it here first. The lead story in our Amateur pages last issue [Gi 114] featured an interview with England’s Georgia Hall, Europe’s top-ranked amateur and the women’s world No.4 after a season littered with quite outstanding individual and team performances, both at home and abroad. With the Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney on the horizon, Golf’s Golden Girl seemed a suitably optimistic headline – and, fair dinkum, how it proved to be.

Picking up where she left off in 2012, Georgia, played the starring role for Team GB, shooting four sub-par rounds (in soaring temperatures) to take the women’s individual title by four shots. It was a stunning and historic achievement for the 16 year old; this was the first time in over a century that golf had appeared in an IOC-sanctioned event. As such, Georgia is one of the sport’s first gold medallists in the modern era (for 109 years, to be exact); what’s more, her brilliance laid the foundation for GB’s victory in the team event in the company of compatriots Ewen Scott, Chloe Williams and Bradley Neil.

“I would love to think that my success could inspire others to take up the game,” said Georgia, who has been invited to compete in her first major at the Kraft Nabisco in April. “The Olympics is massive and it’s incredible to think that after such a long absence [from the Olympic programme] golf is back and I might have a chance of going to Rio. I hope that being part of the Olympics will inspire a new generation of girls and boys to take up the sport.”

Nailed it. The one and only reason that golf’s inclusion in the Olympic programme matters to all of us who love the game is that it is a priceless vehicle with which to attract new players across the globe as governments pour money into the sport’s development. Exactly how the game goes about maximising this opportunity in Rio is currently the subject of much debate, but one thing is certain: nothing is less likely to capture the imagination than making this just another pro tournament. (And – wait for it – a 72-hole strokeplay tournament at that.)

How original. At the highest level, tour golf is saturated with international competition while the existing majors will always represent much more than gold. This is the lucrative tip of the sport that doesn’t need further exposure.

Which is why Olympic golf should showcase instead the phenomenal talent that exists in the amateur game, the opportunity for the world’s top players to accede to the ‘pinnacle of their sport’. Which it would be. Elite amateur golf ticks all the boxes when it comes to reflecting the true spirit of the Games, and winning a gold medal – whether on his own ball or in a team event – would represent the summit of an amateur’s career.

It may be too late for Rio – but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Enjoy the issue.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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