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.
Gold – Justin Rose, Great Britain
Silver – Henrik Stensen, Sweden
Bronze – Matt Kucher, USA
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.