PANAMA CITY, Panama – Speaking on Thursday at the Latin America Amateur Championship, USGA executive director Mike Davis insisted that the International Golf Federation remains committed to the Rio Olympic Golf Course, as he also acknowledged questions about the facility's operations.
The R&A's Martin Slumbers had announced earlier in the news conference that the 2018 LAAC would head back to South America and be staged at Prince of Wales Golf Club in Santiago, Chile.
The news was met with vigorous applause from members of the Latin American media, particularly those from Chile. The LAAC in its brief history has already proven a source of national pride for countries looking to enhance their reputations as golfing nations.
But the exurberance for Chile quickly gave way to a question about Brazil, and the Olympic Course in Rio.
The Olympic Course, at one time, seemed a natural fit for this event, given that, as Davis himself pointed out, representatives from Augusta, the R&A, and the USGA all sit on the board of the International Golf Federation, which oversees Olympic golf.
But the Olympic Course faces an uncertain future in a city and country that has yet to wrap its arms around the game.
When asked Thursday about the possibility of staging the LAAC in Rio in 2019 or 2020, Davis didn't rule it out, but he wouldn't commit to it.
“I think there’s been a lot in the news lately about, ‘What are the next steps for that golf course?’" Davis said. "I think for us, and Martin Slumbers said it earlier, we want to move this championship around the different countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. So certainly that is a golf course we would look at in the future.
"You know, that golf course is transitioning right now, going from the Rio 2016 organizing committee to the Brazilian Golf Confederation, and so there’s some questions about what is going on right now. But I will tell you that the IGF stands committed to help the legacy of that golf course continue. And I think that one day we would love to see this championship held at a famed venue like that."
Davis was referring to an Agence France-Presse report from November which alleged the course was suffering from a lack of play and supporting infrastructure. Superintendent Neil Cleverly told the AFP that ProGolf had not been paid in two months, that it was paying to manage the facility out of its own pocket, and that it was considering abandoning the course.
"What happens when we run out of gas or diesel? We've been close," Cleverly said. "None of us know if there'll be a job for us in December."
Brazilian Golf Confederation president Paulo Pacheco later denied those claims in an email to GolfChannel.com, saying that the course was merely going through a "soft opening," that it had not requested any necessary funds from the IGF for upkeep, and that “the maintenance of the course will continue at the same quality level.”