Olympic Glory


CHASKA, Minn. ' At 8 a.m. (CT) on Thursday, some 35 minutes before Tiger Woods begins his push for Grand Slam No. 15, the 15-member executive board of the International Olympic Committee will meet to decide the games fate in Berlin.
The board will decide if golf is one of two sports that will earn the inside track for inclusion into the 2016 Olympic Games. If all this sounds like background noise to U.S. golf fans, it is.
The foundation for the growth of the game in the United States is strong, led by organizations like The First Tee and Play Golf America. Outside the Lower 48, however, golf has always struggled to compete with the likes of soccer and in countries where the game is economically out of reach for most of the population.
I have to compete against a round ball and a field (soccer), Mark Lawrie, the executive director of the Argentine Golf Association said last year. We do what we can.
With the golf world fixated on Glorys Last Shot and Woods push for his third straight victory underway, Berlin may as well be Mars. But make no mistake, what happens an ocean away from Hazeltine National will have a much more profound impact on the game than anything that could transpire amid the Minnesota corn fields, at least globally.
This is about more than simply bragging rights over Rugby sevens or squash ' squash.... as if. Getting a spot in the 16 Games will give the game a drastically higher profile in countries where a Grand Slam is a breakfast option at Dennys, not a reason to look forward to April.
Organizers ' who are competing against the likes of Rugby sevens, karate, squash, roller-sports and baseball ' point to the explosion of basketball in the wake of the 2008 Games in China. For a sport like golf, holding a spot amid the Olympic rings is akin to a B-12 shot of international proportions, where inclusion will give the game access to resources from a nations Olympic fund and create programs to develop world-class players.
I'd love to be an Olympian. Doesn't that sound good? Imagine us being Olympic athletes, Padraig Harrington said. It seems like it was always destined to be an Olympic sport.
I'm sure there's a lot of athletes out there that would never put golf as a sport, but trying to explain that to somebody that doesn't play golf, they will never understand what goes into golf. Most golfers realize what goes into it and will see it as being a natural sport for the Olympics.
The next ring golfs Olympic advocates will have to jump through will occur on Oct. 9 when the full IOC votes on the games inclusion in Denmark, but a nod on Thursday from the executive board gives the game a 3-up lead with four to play to earn a spot in the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
Im nervous, excited, hopeful, said Ty Votaw, the executive director of the IGFs Olympic Golf Committee. If we get the recommendation it will be great, but we still have a lot of work to do. If not, we have some decisions to make.
If golf is passed over it could continue to push the full IOC membership for a spot, but that would be a long ball outside the reach of even Woods.
The devil is in the details, always is. Finding space for a 72-hole event at the major championship season table will be difficult and there is still some nip/tuck to be done to the selection process to assure the event pulls the games best and brightest.
The venue for the 16 Games could also be an issue. Chicago, among the cities bidding for the Games, would be ideal considering most of the worlds top players will be in the United States at that time and the Windy City enjoys an embarrassment of golf riches organizers could pick a venue from.
There is also the issue of pulling the games top drawing card ' Woods. On Tuesday, the world No. 1 gave organizers a high-profile boost.
Golf is a truly global sport and I think it should have been in the Olympics awhile ago, Wood said. If Im not retired by then, yeah (he would play in the Olympics).
But what if the games biggest stick has already collected his 20 or so major titles, putting the Grand Slam tally out of reach for eternity, and has decided to pursue other interests by the time the 16 Games arrive? An Olympics without Woods would be like Christmas without Santa Claus.
Yet all of the concerns dont dim the potential of an Olympic bid, not to a grassroots guy like Lawrie who is currently getting lapped by a potent one-two combo ' soccer and nearly non-existent access.
The Olympic announcement will come and go on Thursday before Woods reaches the third tee. But make no mistake, this is one major title that can be won or lost on Thursday.
Tune into Golf Channel Thursday at 9 a.m. ET for a news conference regarding the status of golf in the Olympics.
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