As the 2014 Olympic Winter Games from Sochi come to a close this Sunday, the sporting world will begin to turn its attention to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where golf returns to the Olympic program for the first time in 112 years at the 2016 Olympic Games. On Monday, February 24, Golf Channel will begin celebrating golf’s road to Rio with dedicated Olympic-themed coverage on air, online and through its social media channels. The Rio Opening Ceremony will be Friday, Aug. 5, 2016, 893 days from Golf Channel’s celebration on Monday.
“The lead up to golf’s return to the Olympics will be one of the biggest stories in golf in the coming years. Golf Channel will be covering this historic story from a variety of angles as the international growth of golf is put on display with its inclusion in the Olympics,” said Mike McCarley, President of Golf Channel.
Season two of In Play with Jimmy Roberts, which this year expands to an hour, begins Monday at 10 p.m. ET, following the season premiere of Big Break Florida at 9 p.m. ET. In Play will feature an exclusive look at the preparation of the Olympic golf course in Rio through multiple interviews with the course’s designer, Gil Hanse. For the past two years, Golf Channel cameras have captured the development process of the course, including Hanse’s initial visit to the proposed site in 2011, his winning bid to be architect and course designer in 2012 and the current shaping of the course, which is currently under construction. Hanse said, “I don’t know that we will ever get to build a more significant golf course. It is the opportunity of a lifetime.” Hanse also opens up about family stresses during the construction process (his family moved to Rio in January, 2013), his frustrations with the delays of the course development and how he, his family and his management team have overcome these struggles and are moving forward with a scheduled completion of the course in 2014.
Gil Hanse, on the Olympics course design and the schedule changes:
“We can clearly see in what we are building, and the landforms that exist, that we have got something pretty exciting here. The best parts of the day are when the optimism bubbles through of, ‘Boy, wait until we finish this and how good it is going to look.’”
“The schedule has changed – not to fit the pace but basically to fit the reality of where we are now. So, now we have a realistic schedule that will have this golf course being completed sometime in the first half of 2014.”
Hanse’s design team also has been hard at work in renovating and reconstructing the famed Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral in Miami, Fla. The course, which re-opened in early February to rave reviews, will host the PGA TOUR’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in March. Donald Trump discusses with Roberts on In Play why he selected Hanse as the course architect and some of the enhancements and changes made to the course.
The hour-long episode of In Play also delves into the history of golf in the Olympics, which makes its return in 2016 after a 112-year absence, with three unique stories. In Play will highlight the 1900 Olympic Games (Paris, France), when Margaret Abbott won the women’s golf tournament, becoming the first American woman in any sport to win an Olympic event; the 1904 Olympic Games (St. Louis, Mo.) – the last Olympics when golf was an official sport – when Canadian George Lyon dominated the field and won the gold medal, and how he later refused to accept the gold medal at the 1908 London Games; as well as a retrospective on an international golf event taking place around the 1936 Olympic Games, now known as the “Hitler Invitational,” that took place in Berlin, Germany.
Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily morning show, also will look toward Rio on Monday and review the projected field if the men’s and women’s Olympic competitions were to take place today. Hanse is scheduled to join the show on Monday from Rio, and Golf Digest contributor Geoff Shackelford, who has personally surveyed the Rio Olympic golf course project, will join Morning Drive to discuss the latest developments on the design and construction of the course in Rio.
GolfChannel.com will post projected fields for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, based on current world rankings. The field is scheduled to be a total of 60 players for each of the men’s and women’s events. The top-15 ranked players of each gender will qualify with a limit of four golfers qualifying from a country. The remaining 45 spots will go to the highest-ranked players from countries that do not already have two golfers qualified. GolfChannel.com also will launch a dedicated section within the site (www.GolfChannel.com/Olympicgolf) that focuses solely on Olympics-related content, and Golf Channel and NBC Sports’ social media channels will combine efforts to promote Olympics-related content using the #Rio2016 hashtag.
GolfChannel.com will feature on Monday a column from senior writer Jason Sobel on the history of golf in the Olympics. Sobel takes an in-depth look at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis, the last venue to host an Olympics golf tournament in 1904 that featured one of the more unique and memorable medal presentations in Olympics history.