Gold medal for golf
The significance of a gold medal hit Justin Rose at a moment he wasn't expecting.
Long after the medal was draped around his neck and the British flag was raised to ''God Save The Queen,'' Rose called his 7-year-old son expecting a small measure of disappointment. The plan was to take his son, Leo, to a Chelsea game on Monday night, except that Rose missed his flight to England.
What he heard on the phone were tears of joy, and Rose started to choke up just recounting the conversation.
''I've never seen it resonate so much with him,'' he said. ''He's just beginning to understand what sport is all about. He received a medal for a football camp this past week. And he said to me a couple of days ago, 'Right, Dad, I've got my medal. Now it's time for you to get yours.' He was actually crying when I phoned him. I've never seen that out of him before. And that was very, very special.''
Golf officials were still buzzing Monday over a week that exceeded expectations. Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation, said the International Olympic Committee members who came out to see the golf were all complimentary.
''One of the best golf events I've ever been involved with the last few days on many levels,'' he said. ''I think it's done golf a great deal of good.''
It began with Adilson da Silva of Brazil taking a bow after hitting the first Olympic golf shot in 112 years. It ended with Rose thrusting his fist and popping the British crest of his shirt when he outlasted British Open champion Henrik Stenson in a five-hour duel that made golf look and feel like any other Olympic sport.
The final round was a sellout, and fans lined both sides of the fairway for the conclusion. Many were waving flags and decked out in the country's colors.
It helped that the podium featured three players easily recognized in the world of golf. Rose, Stenson and bronze medalist Matt Kuchar all are among the top 20 in the world and have combined to play in nine Ryder Cups over the last decade.
Kuchar seemed as excited about his bronze as Rose was for his gold.
The notion that second place is first loser doesn't apply in the Olympics, and that's what stood out to Rose.
''For me what was heartening was hearing comments from guys who really weren't in contention for being on the podium who spoke positively about it being one of the best golfing weeks of their lives,'' Rose said. ''It's easy to sit here with the gold medal and tell you it's been an incredible experience for me. But it was deeper than just the guys on the podium. It was the wonderful spirit here in Rio, which I think speaks to the bigger picture of what a success it's been.''
Then again, maybe the bar was set too low.
Golf last was in the Olympics in St. Louis in 1904 when only two nations were represented - 74 Americans, three Canadians. That was nine years before Francis Ouimet won the U.S. Open at The Country Club, the event that put golf on front pages in America for the first time.
Concerns deepened when disputes over land ownership and environmental protests delayed the golf course being built. Then came the Zika virus scare and harrowing stories about security in Rio, and so many players began dropping out that golf was perceived as not caring.
The Rio Games were critical. Golf was assured to being part of the Tokyo Games in 2020, but this was seen more as an audition ahead of the International Olympic Committee vote next year to determine which sports stayed beyond that.
Golf brought together its biggest names in 2009 to make a pitch to get back into the Olympics. Next year, one suggestion was to show highlights from Rio.
''Anybody making the decision going forward, I would just ask them, 'Were you in Rio on Sunday?''' Rose said. ''I think it was a sellout, which is more than some of the other events I've been watching on TV.''
Matt Kuchar said nothing needed to be said ''other than what transpired this week.''
''I wasn't really sure what to expect as far as golf in Brazil,'' Kuchar said. ''I didn't think that it would have great support, and it really did. If you take the broadcast and then look at what a great showdown to have these two guys battling down the end, I don't know that it could have gone much better.''