Golf Trying to Make Another Olympic Push


PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem offered his support Tuesday for golf to become an Olympic sport, an endorsement that could give golf its strongest chance since it was dropped from the Olympic program more than 100 years ago.
While there remain questions to be answered and issues to be resolved, I believe the time is now right to move forward, Finchem said on a blog he posted on the tours Web site.
Because the International Olympic Committee requires seven years for a sport to be added, the earliest golf could be part of the Olympics is 2016. The IOC will meet next year to vote on a host for the 2016 Games and decide whether to include additional sports.
Any bid would have to come through the International Golf Federation, which the IOC recognizes as golfs ruling body for the Olympics. It is run jointly by USGA executive director David Fay and Royal & Ancient Golf Club chief executive Peter Dawson.
Golf last was played in the Olympics in 1904, with George Lyon of Canada winning the gold medal.
It almost was part of the Atlanta Games in 1996'at Augusta National, no less'until IOC member Anita DeFrantz and others criticized the clubs all-male membership, and the fact it had only recently taken a black member.
The last attempt for Olympic golf came in 2005.
It failed for a pragmatic reason, Fay said. Its not going to succeed unless the professional tours are behind it. We havent had the professional bodies express support for it since Atlanta.
Finchem said golf as an Olympic sport would promote growth around the world. And while he mentioned that golf already has four majors, three World Golf Championships and The Players Championship, he thought there was room for golf in the Olympics.
I do not believe that Olympic golf would have any effect on the stature or prestige of these other significant events, but rather would provide another complementary opportunity for our players to compete and demonstrate their skills on a global stage, he said.
What remains uncertain is whether the Olympics interest Tiger Woods, the worlds No. 1 player and biggest attraction. When this first came up at the start of the decade, Woods pointed to four major championships with equal value held every year.
I dont think it would be a big priority in our game, he said in 2000.
Fay said the key would be to have most of the top players involved, not every one. The biggest boost is support is from golfs brass.
The most important thing is to get the professional bodies behind it, Fay said. And then its good ol fashioned lobbying. And were willing to do that.
In the most recent proposal for golf to join the Olympics, officials suggested 72 holes for stroke play with 50 men and 50 women, with eligibility determined by the world ranking. No country could have more than three players.
Golf is ripe for Olympic involvement with quality players from more countries. In the past several years, Jeev Milkha Singh became the first player from India to win a European tour event; the Masters has invited two players from China; and Angel Cabrera gave South America its first major champion in 40 years.
Finchem said the biggest obstacle would be scheduling, including his FedEx Cup, which concludes with four big tournaments at the end of the regular season, with $10 million going to the winner.
Fay said the World Golf Foundation, of which he is the chairman for the next two years, likely would meet over the next few months to start developing a plan. The foundation includes leaders from all major golf organizations, including Augusta National Golf Club.
Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National who ran the Atlanta Games, wants to see golf in the Olympics.
Im a great advocate of golf being part of the program and think it belongs there, Payne said last week at the Masters. Once a sport is officially accepted into the Olympic program, it becomes entitled to distribution through their committees, to some of the proceeds of finance generated by the Olympics. That would be a way of importantly introducing the game to a lot of countries.
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