First published on the Golf Monthly website on Friday 16th October 2009
Debates have been raging over the announcement of golf’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics. Fergus has decided to jump on the bandwagon.
Every man and his dog seem to have forwarded their opinion on the recent announcement of golf’s inclusion in the 2016 Olympics. I argued for the addition of our sport in the pages of Golf Monthly a few issues ago – I stand by the case I made and look forward to seeing golf in Rio.
One of the key reasons people seem upset that golf will be part of the 2016 Games is because it won’t represent the pinnacle of the sport.
Well, of course it won’t at first. Golf has been on the go for over 500 years and for the last 100 years it’s been one of the biggest sports in the world with hundreds of thousands/millions of spectators watching the pros battle it out for the Major Championships. No new tournament can immediately eclipse those historic events.
When Bobby Jones hosted the first Augusta Invitational in 1934, the tournament was not the pinnacle of the sport, just a gathering of his pals who happened to be some of the world’s best players. But now The Masters is up there and many pros would say donning a green jacket is their main ambition in the game.
Prior to 2016, the Olympics will not be the top priority of many pros. But, after the first players have stood on the podium to receive their gold medals, its significance will increase. As a new generation of players come through, the Olympics will become a main objective – making the Olympic team will be a key aim like making a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team.
By 2036 the Olympics may be at the pinnacle of the sport – its worth might well be above the four Majors. We can’t know at this stage.
Then there are those who lament the death of the Olympic spirit – the increasing professionalism of the Games – they see golf’s inclusion as further evidence of this.
Hmm. Athletics has, and will continue to be, the main attraction at the Olympics and it’s fully professional these days. The top athletes compete for huge prizes week in week out in the Golden League and have lucrative sponsorship deals.
Swimming, tennis, football, basketball, road cycling etc: all the guys and girls who participate in these sports at the Games are full-time professionals. Yes, amateurism was at the core of the early Olympics but, in the 21st Century, the core of the Olympics is professional – like it or lump it.
I’ve also been rather depressed by the general anti-golf sentiment that’s been prevalent in the backlash to the IOC’s announcement. Here’s a couple of standard comments that have followed articles on the broadsheet’s websites:
“Golf is the most god-awful game in the world.”
“For the rest of us who are actually humans, you’ve provided another good reason to avoid your poxy game. God I hate Golf.”
It’s incredible how negatively many non-golfers view our great sport. They still see it as an elitist activity open only to rich, pot-bellied, cigar smoking conservatives.
It’s unbelievably narrow-minded. This is how these people want to view golf so it fits in with a stereotype they like to hold on to. If they bothered to examine the sport a bit further they’d see initiatives from the Golf Foundation and Club Golf taking the game to inner cities and youngsters from all backgrounds; they’d see council-run pay-and-play courses where you can get a game for half the price of a ticket to the football; they’d see top players coming through funded schemes; they’d see the R&A and other organisations working to promote golf across the globe. Golf is a forward-thinking and inclusive sport if you want it to be.
The reaction to golf’s inclusion in the Olympics has produced too much looking backwards – Looking back to when the Games were for amateurs only, looking back to a time when golf was the preserve of the super rich and upper classes. I say let’s look forward to golf playing a valuable part in the Olympic Games and to its popularity spreading across the world as a result.