When Canadian George S. Lyon defeated Chandler Harper to win the gold medal at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, few would have imagined it would be more than a century before another golfer would have that opportunity.
Lyon, then 46, would eventually win eight Canadian Amateur titles but clearly the defining mark of his life was his Olympic moment.
As of October 9th, with approval by the International Olympic Committee, golfers of the world can now dream of achieving Olympic glory, just like Lyon.
During the 121st session of the IOC committee golf was approved for inclusion in the 2016 and 2020 Olympiads.
The process to have golf included in the Olympics was a long one that was aided by the support of many athletes and administrators. Among those speaking to the IOC committee on the final day were LPGA players Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie, 2009 British Amateur Champion Matteo Manassero, and 3-time major champion Padraig Harrington. Each gave a short but impassioned speech about why they felt golf should be an Olympic sport while Wie also introduced short video clips from Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, both playing at the Presidents Cup.
While the players were excited at the outcome of the day’s events nobody felt more relief than Ty Votaw. “We are elated that the IOC has accepted golf as an Olympic sport, and look forward to seeing the world’s best golfers compete for gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” said Votaw, Exectuive Director of the International Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee.
Based on player feedback the International Golf Federation (IGF) has proposed a 72-hole individual stroke play format for both men’s and women’s competitions. A three-hole playoff was recommended as a tie breaker to determine medal winners.
Further recommendations include a 60 player field for each of the competitions using the Official World Golf Rankings to determine eligibility. The top-15 players in the world would be eligible to compete, regardless of their national origin. Outside of the top 15, players would qualify based on the world golf rankings with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.
Based on the current world rankings that would qualify players from as many as 30 countries. That’s a big improvement from the 1904 field in St. Louis when some 70 Americans were joined by a sprinkling of just three Canadians.
Of course there is still a lot of work left for the return of Olympic Golf in 2016 in Rio, within the hosting bid that included a $14Billion dollar spending pledge there was no apparent provision for a new golf facility which they will most likely need.
There is a lot of time to sort that out of course, the important thing is that the first major hurdle has been crossed and for at least the the next six years there will be another reason for the world to talk about golf.