Should golf be back on the Olympic schedule?
Friday’s announcement in Copenhagen that golf would be added to the Olympic schedule from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro sparked joyous reaction from players past and present, along with a few dissenting voices.
World number one Tiger Woods declared it “a perfect fit” while fellow great Jack Nicklaus voiced his pride over golf’s united front on “a great day” for the sport.
“I think it’s great for golf,” 14-times major champion Woods told reporters before Friday’s foursomes matches at the Presidents Cup team competition in San Francisco here the U.S. are taking on the Internationals.
“It’s a perfect fit for the Olympics, and I think we are all looking forward to golf getting into the Olympics. Having talked to other athletes who have gotten a chance to experience the Olympics, they have absolutely loved it and had the greatest time.”
Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 majors, said in a statement: “This is a great day for the game of golf. “It is obvious that the unified voice of golf was not only heard but embraced by the International Olympic Committee. Now the sport I have always called the greatest game of all can be shared with the rest of the world on the greatest stage in sports.”
“I do believe in time the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf and I don’t believe it will take that long,” the Irishman said.
“In the four years between the Olympics there will be 16 major championships, so winning gold will be that much more special. I want to be there in 2016. Being an Olympian is a big deal in Ireland, one of the greatest honours for any Irish person, and I want to be one.”
Golf last featured in an Olympics in 1904 and South African Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, was among those who felt the sport should never have returned to the schedule.
“I don’t think that golf should be an Olympic sport, at all,” Immelman said. “I don’t think basketball should be an Olympic sport. I don’t think tennis should be an Olympic sport.
“If I was running the Olympics, I would go back to the way it was originally — gymnastics, weight lifting, swimming, track and field, marathons. That’s to me what the Olympics is.
“To me the Olympics was founded on amateur sports. Guys go in there training for four years and putting their whole lives on the line to win a gold medal.”
Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, a 13-times winner on the European Tour, agreed.
“I’ve always been against it because I grew up watching the Olympics and to me they are an amateur event,” Clarke said. “I know things have changed, with tennis in there and basketball and all that.
“I can see they want to grow the sport around the world, but personally I don’t think it should be in it. However, if I had the chance to play I probably would.”
There is no question the return of golf to the Olympics will help spread the growth of the game worldwide, especially in developing countries where government money will now be automatically allocated.
Many, however, feel that golf’s Holy Grail of the four majors will never be eclipsed by Olympic gold and that sports such as squash or karate, who were both eliminated from inclusion at the 2016 Games, would be worthier representatives.
What are your thoughts: should golf be back on the Olympic agenda?
PHOTO: Trevor Immelman of South Africa practices his swing with a golf tee in his mouth on the 18th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida May 7, 2008. REUTERS/Hans Deryk