IGF Presents Case for Golf in Olympics

Representatives of the International Golf Federation recently presented their case for golf to become an Olympic sport during a meeting with the International Olympic Committee Programme Commission at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

Making the presentation were Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A and joint secretary of the IGF, and PGA Tour executive Ty Votaw, executive director of the IGF Olympic Golf Committee.

Among the points highlighted were golf's worldwide participation and diversity; the sport's economic and charitable impact; and its commitment to the youth of the world. Golf, they noted, has grown significantly in these three areas and would continue to grow as an Olympic sport, thus influencing the relevance and attraction of the Olympic Games.

"Golf truly is an international sport, with 60 million people playing the game in nearly 120 countries," Dawson noted. "And it continues to grow with new initiatives being implemented all over the world to teach the game to both young and old. We believe the time is right for golf to be brought back to the Olympic Games."

During the presentation, the IOC Programme Commission was shown a series of short films that featured top players expressing support for golf's bid. The films opened up with Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the No. 1-ranked woman golfer in the world, and closed with world No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods. In between, the support of top players such as Annika Sorenstam from Sweden, Phil Mickelson from the United States, Suzanne Petterson from Norway and Vijay Singh from Fiji was also highlighted. Also appearing in the films with statements of support were: Paula Creamer, United States; Karrie Webb, Australia; K.J. Choi, South Korea; Ernie Els, South Africa; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Ryuji Imada, Japan; Anthony Kim, United States; Camilo Villegas, Colombia; and Mike Weir, Canada. (Films are available for viewing at: www.mms://svrstream.pgatourhq.com/golf_in_olympics.wmv.)

"We felt it was critically important to show that many of the game's biggest stars are saying supportive and positive things about golf's bid for the Olympics," Votaw said. "We obviously believe there is a very compelling case as to why golf should become an Olympic sport, and today was the first official step in what essentially is a year-long selection process. Peter and I took the opportunity to highlight the growth and popularity of golf, its global impact and how it would benefit the Olympic Games."

A special element to the presentation was the actual trophy given to Canadian George Lyon for winning the individual stroke play in 1904 in St. Louis, USA, the last time golf was an Olympic sport. The trophy is on perpetual display at the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and was loaned by the Royal Canadian Golf Association for the presentation.

At the time of Lyon's victory, men's individual and team titles were contested among 77 golfers representing just two nations - 74 from the United States and three from Canada. Showing just how international professional golf has become, Votaw pointed out that the current top-10 rankings for both men and women feature players from 12 different countries. Professional golf is televised every week in 216 countries, translated into 35 languages, with a reach of more than 500 million households. Also of note is that 120 players, or half of the LPGA's membership, are from countries outside the United States. Plus, the European Tour's "Race to Dubai" in 2009 will feature 53 tournaments in 27 countries.

The next step in the process is to submit responses to a detailed questionnaire in March 2009 that will constitute the formal and technical bid. Between now and then, the IGF will solicit input from the world's top players to help finalize the proposed format for Olympic golf competition.

While specifics of the format will be based on the input of players and outlined in the formal bid, Dawson and Votaw presented an overview of the IGF's initial thinking, which includes 60-player fields for both men and women playing in a yet-to-be determined individual competitive format.

"We envisage the individual athlete competing for his or her country to ensure geographic balance among the players and to maximize the number of countries that can earn a medal," Dawson explained.

Dawson and Votaw also noted the ease with which golf would fit into any of the four finalists to host the 2016 Games due to existing golf facilities in those cities - Chicago, USA; Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Tokyo, Japan. Both the host city and selection of any new sports will be determined at the 121st IOC session, scheduled for October 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Each of the seven sports being considered for inclusion starting with the 2016 Games made a half-hour presentation. Also under consideration are baseball, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, softball and squash.

Prior to the final decision, each sport under consideration will respond by May to any questions the IOC Programme Committee might have regarding the detailed questionnaire. A second presentation to the IOC Executive Board will take place in June, with the final vote taking place in October.