April 14, 2009

Paddy, Sergio, Tiger and Vijay Throw in Support For Olympic Golf

Many of the world's top men's players are showing support for golf to return to the Olympics:

Reuters: Woods Leads Top Players in Support of 2016 Olympic Golf
"Tiger Woods is one of 18 of the world's leading golfers to back the International Golf Federation's (IGF) bid to have the sport included in the 2016 Olympic Games.

"Woods has written personally and sent a 32-page brochure outlining the bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) member for the United States.

"Ireland's Padraic Harrington, winner of two majors last year, Fiji's Vijay Singh, Europe's 2010 Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and Spain's Sergio Garcia, have also written to their respective IOC members to try and restore golf to the Olympic fold for the first time for more than 100 years."

A Recent Failure To Return Golf To The Olympics:

In October 1992, the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee announced that it would seek recognition of golf as an official sport for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and that it planned to hold the event, for men and women, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

The basis for this was laid during the Atlanta bid for the 1996 Olympics. Atlanta Organizing Committee Chairman Billy Payne was permitted to entertain several IOC members at the Augusta National Golf Club, courtesy of club chairman, Jack Stephens. Payne and Stephens decided that golf should become an Olympic sport in 1996 with Augusta as the venue. The idea was sold to then IOC Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch when Payne told him that the Augusta National could host a field of the top professional players in the world.

Unfortunately, as we now know, the idea never came to fruition. Augusta National has no female members and few African-American members, a fact that was quickly seized upon by activists eager to use golf and the club's exclusivity to make a point for their particular causes. Additionally, Payne blundered politically by not wooing Anita DeFrantz, a black former Olympian and then the only IOC member from the US. DeFrantz did not like the plan and offered no support. The plan died shortly on the vine thereafter.

Also unfortunately, it deprived the world of a glimpse at Augusta National in a season other than early spring and it deprived the world's top womens' players from competing on the hallowed course. By making political points at the expense of Augusta National, activists actually caused golf to suffer and at the end of the affair, in my opinion, hurt the women's game. Seeing Annika Soremstam hitting shots that meant something on the back nine of Augusta would have made a powerful statement indeed. Now, at least in any foreseeable future, that remains an impossibility.

A New Hope, And A New Tack May Work:

Chicago, the host of the XXXI Olympiad, also has a number of extremely private courses -- Chicago Golf Club and Medinah come to mind -- that may be superb choices.

Then again, perhaps the USOC and the USGA could strike a blow for equality by holding an Olympic tournament on the Windy City's Jackson Park Golf Course, a South Side course which is where a lot of the city's minorities and lower income players first get their taste of the game.

According to the course's site:
"In 1890, Chicago won the honor of hosting the World's Columbian Exposition, and Jackson Park was selected as its site. Olmsted and Chicago's famous architect and planner Daniel H. Burnham laid out the fairgrounds. A team of the nation's most significant architects and sculptors created the "White City" of plaster buildings and artworks. The monumental World's Fair opened to visitors on May 1, 1893. After it closed six months later, the site was transformed back into parkland. Jackson Park featured the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies, which opened in 1899."
That in mind, there is no doubt that Jackson Park has the history to provide a worthy venue, although it would need some tender loving care to ready it for the world's top players, should the IOC approve the 2016 plan. It were all to happen, Tiger, Phil, Sergio and the world's top golfers walking a refurbished and revitalized Jackson Park would say more than ever holding an extra competition at Cog Hill or Medinah. And at the end of the competition, golfers who rarely have access to top courses would have a gem of their own to hone their games -- and maybe even become the next Tiger.

As for the women golfers (you didn't think I forgot them, did you?) I would like them to play Chicago Golf Club. Even though CGC has limited minority or female membership, it does offer an incredibly challenging course that it would simply be awesome to see the world's top women players golfing down.

Jackson Park Course Photo via Golf Illinois


  1. The refurbishing of the Jackson Park course would be great.

    I wonder though if golf will be able win its bid as long as it's still associated with exclusion, which it probably will be as long as there are clubs that exclude.

    Personally, I understand the "our membership alone decides our membership" thing, the general non-golfing public won't, the perception of Augusta National and Muirfield and others that don't allow women members will be of entities that tolerate discrimination.

  2. It's hard because so often politics and other issues get wrapped up in the Olympic Games. I definitely want to see golf in the Olympics, but activists often use the high profile of the Olympics to "make a point," instead of grabbing an "opportunity."


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