IGF to IOC: We’re Going for the Gold

July 16, 2008

SOUTHPORT, England –You’ll be asked for your opinion at the end of this, so pay attention.
The big guns of the International Golf Federation announced today that they have formed a committee to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the inclusion of golf at the 2016 Olympic Games. The R&A’s chief executive, Peter Dawson, cited “over 90%” support among polled golf federations and governing bodies, and described Olympics golf as “the biggest grow-the-game opportunity that exists.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem then announced that the Tour’s executive vice-president, Ty Votaw, will take 15 months off to run the IGF’s let-us-play campaign.
That means that pretty much the entire international golf community is now, in Dawson’s words, “speaking with one voice” for Olympic participation –- the notable exceptions being a few dead-enders among the tournament players and yours truly.
The tour players, to hear the men in suits tell it, are not as universally opposed to Olympic golf as they once were. “We haven’t had one player come to us and say anything negative,” said George O’Grady, executive director of the PGA European Tour. Finchem, while dodging a reporter’s question about the willingness of superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to suit up for Team USA, said he expected “wide and deep support” from Tour players.
Those, of course, would be the same Tour players who wish that the Ryder and Presidents Cups were played every 20 years instead of biennially, and for whom an invitation to play in the annual World Cup is as welcome as a summons for jury duty.
My own feelings about golf in the Olympics range from mild indifference to, I don’t know — total indifference? That’s because the world’s top golfers are already overexposed. You’ve got the four major championships and the four LPGA majors, the second-tier biggies like The Players and the WGC events, the invitationals like The Memorial and the Mercedes Championship, the dripping-with-money free-for-alls like the ADT Championship (gals) and the inaugural Dubai World Championship (guys), the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, the Presidents Cup, the Skins Game, the Skills Challenge, the Tiger-and-Padraig-Play-Sergio-and-Phil-Under-Mercury-Vapor-Lamps Classic … need I go on? What’s so exciting about a once-every-four-years square-off between national teams made up of the same weary road warriors who are already burnt into our TV screens?
But that’s just me. Your heart might pump faster at the sight of Jim Furyk reading a putt if he’s got the five-linked-rings logo on his hat. Either way, feel free to weigh in. We’ve got 15 months before the IOC decides if golf is in (“You ‘da game!”) or golf is out.