Golf in the Olympics? Say No to the Pros

golf-stick-figureAccording to the NYT, golf, along with rugby, has moved another step closer to becoming a sport in the 2016 Summer Games, as the International Olympic Committee placed it on the agenda for a final vote in October. From the article:

“Golf has the advantage of being an international sport whose top players, like Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa, have worldwide recognition.

Woods has endorsed the addition of golf to the Olympic program and recently indicated he would play, if selected.

A 72-hole stroke-play tournament has been proposed for the Games, with 60 players in each field. The top 15 players on both the men’s and women’s professional tours would automatically qualify.”

Wow, so it’ll be a pseudo-Tour event. How creative! I’m all for golf in the Olympics, but (as usual) they’re going about it in completely the wrong way. The format should be match play competition among amateurs. Lots of smaller nations have one or two world-class amateurs. Top touring pros, in contrast, mainly hail from two handfuls of countries. For an amateur, an Olympic gold would be the crowning achievement of his or her career–even if they go on to future success as a pro. Now, I know Tiger Woods is a deeply patriotic individual, but to a guy who has already won the Green Jacket and the Claret Jug, it’s almost just another piece of hardware.

And do we really need to see Vijay Singh walking around the stadium track with Fiji’s flag in a little hip holster?

Part of the joy of the Olympics is watching talented people rise from obscurity to show the world their skills. Golf wouldn’t be any different–if the contestants have a real stake in the competition and the vicissitudes of match play allow for drama to unfold. In a nutshell, I’m describing the difference between March Madness and the NBA Finals (or Olympic basketball, for that matter).

Of course, this scenario will never happen. The professionalization of the Olympics has easily been the most negative development in the so-called “Olympic Movement” in a generation, and it’s sad to see golf get caught up in its vortex of greed.


One comment for “Golf in the Olympics? Say No to the Pros”

  1. I’m not even sure golf should be there but if it is, I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Well said.

    Posted by Aussie Golfer | August 13, 2009, 7:13 pm

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