Golf at the Olympics: One fan’s view

October 20, 2016

This past summer at the Olympics in Rio golf was a recognized medal sport for the first time since 1904. As a die-hard golfer and golf fan I’d like to give some of the history behind this and my thoughts on golf as an Olympic sport.

The last and only time golf was an Olympic sport was during the 1900 Olympics in Paris, France and the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

First let’s look at Paris in 1900. Men’s and women’s events were held. The men competed in a 36 hole stroke-play tournament and the women in a 9 hole stroke-play tournament. Charles Sanders of the USA won the men’s Gold Medal and Margaret Abbot of the USA the women’s Gold Medal. A total of twenty-two golfers competed from 4 nations.

At St. Louis in 1904 only men competed. No women’s golf events were held. Seventy-seven golfers from just two nations completed, Canada and the United States. Men’s individual events were match play. Team events were held. Three teams of 10 golfers each competed in stroke play. The individual results of each team were totalled to determine the team standings. USA won Gold and Canada Silver. In the individual event the Gold Medal winner was George Lyon, a Canadian. This was the last time the sport of golf was an Olympic event.

At the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 a vote was held and golf accepted for the Olympics in 2016 in Rio and for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. After that an evaluation will be done by the IOC and golf’s governing bodies to see if it should continue.

The format for the golf events was also determined and will be,

  • 120 golfers, 60 men and 60 women.
  • 72 hole (4 rounds of 18 holes) stroke play tournaments for the men and the women.
  • Official Rules of Golf to be used as on the PGA, European, Asian tours and the LPGA tour.
  • In case of a tie a three-hole play-off will be held to determine the Gold Medal winner. Ties for Silver or Bronze are permitted and medals awarded appropriately.
  • Qualifiers are to be based on World Rankings prior to the Olympics.
  • Top 15 players of each gender automatically qualify, but a limit of 4 golfers per country. Remaining spots to highest ranked players from countries not having two golfers qualified.
  • Guaranteed at least one golfer from the host nation and each geographic region.
  • No cuts in the tournaments after two days as is usual practice. All golfers play all four rounds.

Unfortunately at Rio many of the world’s top golfers both men and women withdrew because of the Zika virus, their schedule or personal reasons. In the end the competition featured 34 nations. In both the men’s and women’s tournaments play-offs weren’t required.

Men’s winners:
Gold – Justin Rose, Great Britain
Silver – Henrik Stensen, Sweden
Bronze – Matt Kucher, USA

Women’s winners:
Inbee Park – Gold, South Korea
Lydia Ko – Silver, New Zealand
ShanShan Feng – Bronze, China

As a fan I managed to watch most of the rounds and the finals in both men’s and women’s. The competition was fierce and close in both cases. Very entertaining. I am biased but I vote a resounding Yes for golf in the Olympics.

Golf season ends, writing begins

October 15, 2016

carstairs-slide2I admit it. I haven’t been posting a lot lately. Too busy outside hitting the links. Golf is another of my passions. What do I like about chasing that little white ball?

What does the game of golf do for me? This the most often asked question from non-golfers. Well thinking about it I came up with the following,

  • It’s a great excuse to get outside for fresh air and nature.
  • The walking part is fantastic exercise. I always walk never ride the power cart.
  • Challenges my physical and mental skills. Not only is golf a physical game but it requires thinking and concentrating.
  • Golf is a social game. Great way to develop and maintain friendships.
  • Most of all it’s just plain fun.

Now having said this I stress that I am an average player, but one who plays well enough to find it enjoyable. I make an effort to emphasis fun and not get frustrated. When I was younger I took it far too seriously. I’m enjoying the game more than I ever have since I retired.

If you’d like to try this great game here are a couple of suggestions, 1) take basic lessons from a reputable pro and practice what you learn, and 2)rent or borrow clubs the first few times.

Finally just enjoy being alive and outside playing an interesting game.

Darren Clarke – Not just another sports story.

July 20, 2011

Darren savoring victory-photo by Russell Cheyne, Reuters

On Sunday the prestigious British Open was won by Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke. The forty-two years young Clarke was playing in his 20th Open, but golf was not the only story here. The human interest saga behind the beaming face of Darren Clarke far outweighs the golf.

Clarke was probably one of the best golfers never to have won a major tournament. For those non-golfers there are four major tournaments in the world, The Masters, The US Open, The British Open, and the PGA Championship. It is every golfer’s dream to win one of these. In Clarke’s case he won his home country’s Open which made it doubly special.

Darren has had to fight not only the other golfers and the courses over the years, but a terrible tragedy as well.

Five years ago his wife Heather died of breast cancer. Since that time he has struggled on the course and in life. Darren had to raise two young boys on his own while making a living on the golf course. Clarke came through these troubles with strength and dignity. One of the first calls he made after winning the tournament was to his sons. His fiancée stood by him during the tournament. Life is coming together again for Clarke.

British Open champion Darren Clarke is a fine man who deserves to enjoy this win. May good fortune continue to shine on him.

Recommended Reading:

Tiger on the Prowl

March 16, 2010

Hey there's a hoo. Let me get out my club.


Newspapers today report Tiger is on the prowl again.

It remains to be seen if he will be prowling on and off the course, or just on the fairways.

10 Playing Tips for Tiger

February 19, 2010

After listening to Tiger’s apology today I made a list of ten things to remember when thinking about playing strange courses. 

  • Confine your balls to your own course.
  • Always use a club cover when visiting a different course.
  • Never play a different course more than once.
  • Never, ever let another course know you love them.
  • Never tell others about strange courses you’ve played.
  • The holes on your home course are better than unknown holes on other courses.
  • The grass is not always greener on other courses.
  • Just because you have balls and a club doesn’t mean you have to try them out on all courses.
  • Mulligans (retries) aren’t usually allowed in marriages.
  • If you get caught playing a round on another course, it means you’ll have to do lots of maintenance on your home course until you can play it again.

Good luck Tiger. Keep your balls and club in the bag.

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

April 15, 2008

Bob Goalby, Masters Champion 1968The Masters golf tournament was played this past weekend. Being a golf fan I watched avidly. Some people say golf is boring to watch, but the name of the game is drama. Human interest stories make the players interesting.

(Left: Bob Goalby accepting the green jacket symbolic of The Masters Championship)

This tournament, one of professional golf’s four majors (others are US Open, British Open, and The PGA), are the diamonds of the tour. Ask any player and he will tell you that winning a major is his goal. It isn’t the money alone, but rather the prestige and accompanying endorsements that result from winning the players are after. To top it off the tour rewards winners of the Masters and other majors with exemptions and invitations to events that can relieve the pressure of winning. For example Masters winners get automatic invitations to the other majors for the next five years, a lifetime invitation to The Masters, and PGA Tour card for the following five years.

Back in 1968 when the four rounds of the Masters were completed there was a two-way tie between American Bob Goalby and Argentinian Roberto DeVicenzo. Both players were preparing for an eighteen-hole playoff, but first under PGA Tour rules they had to verify their scorecards and sign them to make it official. Most times this is a formality. Not this time.

There was a mistake on DeVicenzo’s scorecard. His playing partner, fellow professional, Tommy Aaron, marked a 4 on the No. 17 hole, when DeVicenzo had in fact made a 3. DeVicenzo failed to catch the mistake and signed the scorecard as being accurate. Professional Golfers Association rules state the “the higher written score signed by a golfer on his card must stand”. Because DeVicenzo now had a higher score by one stroke, Goalby won The Masters championship.

(Left: Goalby and DeVicenzo going over Roberto’s scorecard in disbelief. Sports Illustrated cover from April 22, 1968)

I still remember the dazed look on both player’s faces. DeVicenzo was in shock for making such an elementary mistake. Goalby being the consumate professional wanted to win, but his joy was tainted by winning this way. DeVicenzo to his great credit went over to Goalby and embraced him and congratulated him. Roberto spoke to the press and told them that Goalby was a deserving winner. Sportsmanship was displayed for all to see, but the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were never so vivid.


Feeling Like a Pro

June 5, 2007


It was a sunny but cool day in the Rockies. I was playing the pristine 18 hole layout at the Golden Golf Club in Golden, British Columbia. Golden is three hours west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is one of my favorite courses. Scenery and fresh air more than make up for any wayward golf shots. It is a wonderful place to experience golf. My golfing ability level is “recreational”, I play well enough to enjoy the game, but not well enough to challenge the pros. Usually I shoot scores in the mid-80s to low 90s. My game can best be described as “flashes of brilliance and moments of despair”. I have been playing since my late teens and am now over 50. Enjoyment of the game is now paramount in my golf goals. This particular day I was playing with two local men I met in the clubhouse. The weather was great for golf, not too cold or hot, with just a whisper of wind.

The tenth hole at Golden is a par 4 of 370 yards from the White tees and is uphill all the way from the tee box to the green. The slope of the fairway is more severe in the last 150 yards to the hole. It is relatively straight away with maybe a very slight dogleg right.

No.10 at Golden, B.C.

Hitting my driver off the tee, I sliced into a fairway bunker located 198 yards out on the right. The dreaded slice is one of my weaknesses, as it is for a lot of recreational golfers. Usually I manage to control it. Most of the time it manifests itself as a slight fade. This drive had to be classified as a moderate slice.

Approaching the hazard I saw that the ball was in the sand towards the front. The golf ball was sitting up on the white sand. As I scoped out the next shot I noticed the 150 yard marker was just ahead of the bunker. While I was waiting on my playing partners’ shots I walked to the marker and paced the yardage back to the ball. The distance was about 22 yards. This meant the total distance to the center of the green was 172 yards. The top part of the flagstick was visible, but not the green or the hole.

My club selection was a number 7 metal fairway wood out of the sand. Ideally this would have enough club loft to get out of the trap. Hopefully I would also be able to advance the ball. I stepped into the trap wriggled my feet around until my stance was solid in the loose sand. I decided to concentrate on the one golf tip that came to my mind – keep your eyes on the sand just behind the ball during the swing.

I felt comfortable in my stance, so I took a full swing. At once I realized I had made excellent contact with the ball. The feeling was very sweet as we golfers like to say. The ball streaked out of the sand on a mission. It had good height and was arching directly at the pin. Eyes glued to the flight of the ball, I realized I had hit the ball too well. Surely I thought it would end its flight beyond the target, likely in the rough.

Pessimistically, I approached the green and did not see the ball anywhere. Behind the green was an open area covered with long grass. This can be best described as thick, moderate rough. Balls tend to nestle down and become invisible in this type of golf course terrain. I started to look here right away but could not locate the ball.

Finally in disgust I gave up the search and sheepishly headed for the flagstick. I wanted help my partners by removing it so they could concentrate on their putts. As I pulled the pin, I looked down and there was my ball! My heart racing with excitement I reached down. Removing it from the hole, I examined it in detail. Sure enough it was my “Ultra 500”. I looked at them, they looked at me. Then my excitement could not be contained anymore. They rushed over to congratulate me as I let out a jubilant cry. I had scored a two on a par 4. This is known as an eagle (two strokes under par). To play this hole and score even a four (par) would be considered outstanding.

My golf day was made and I felt like I could do no wrong. Golf was an easy game or so I thought. The next hole was a short but difficult par 4. Confidence exuded from my psyche. With new found prowess the tension I usually felt when approaching the hole evaporated. I proceeded to take six strokes to complete this hole. A double-bogy! The golf gods had sent me a message and shocked me to reality.

In the final analysis, what did I care? I had scored an eagle. Very few recreational golfers ever achieve this feat, especially on a golf course of this level of difficulty. For one brief moment I was as good as Tiger Woods.

%d bloggers like this: