Gold medal winners to earn '17 major exemptions

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – As golf inches toward a return to the Olympics later this year in Brazil the game’s four major championship organizations banded together on Monday to boost its appeal.

The U.S. Golf Association, R&A, PGA of America and Augusta National Golf Club announced that the winner of this year’s gold medal will receive an exemption into all four men’s majors in 2017.

Similarly, the R&A, USGA, PGA and LPGA announced the winner of the women’s gold medal will be given one-year exemptions into the five women’s majors.

“We believe our game's visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer,” said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. “New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf.

“From this greater visibility, we believe will evolve greater participation in our game, and it will be a certain beneficiary.”

Officials for all four organizations said that since the Olympics are on a four-year cycle they did consider extending those exemptions for four years instead of one, but ultimately decided against that.

“I think from our perspective, yes, we looked at, is it one year; is it for the whole four years?” said Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A. “We came down on the side that the Olympics is a once‑every‑four‑year event and offering it for the following year is a worthy reflection of a great achievement.”

The USGA will also offer bronze and silver medal winners exemptions through the first stage of U.S. Open qualifying.

The PGA Tour plans to look into offering a similar exemption into next year’s Players Championship after a review by the policy board and player advisory council in the coming weeks.