Big Names Not the Way to Grow the Game at Olympics

All right, I have to admit that Olympic fever is hitting yours truly. I have been addicted to NBC’s multiple platform broadcasts as I try to grab a little bit of all the competitions down in Rio. rio oly

Sure, watching Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and the swim team is great and those high flying, gravity defying gymnasts are amazing. And of course the beach volleyball is fun. How aren’t they covered in sand? But I am not limiting myself to the high profile sports.

I have been loving the cycling, archery, fencing, rowing, rugby, tennis, table tennis and water polo. And the track and field hasn’t even started yet. I am sure NBC is hoping a few hundred million people feel the same way I do. But I am still not convinced on the golf.

OK, I do have a bit of Olympic fever and if you have checked out the Golf Channel or any of the golf media outlets you’ll see a good bit of the players having a ball in Rio. And that is what the player experience is all about.

Rickie Fowler is hanging with Michael Phelps. Justin Rose, Danny Willett are making the rounds. And Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are having a ball checking out the competitions and getting in a little golf.

Now, I have expressed my opinion here before that I think that golf in the Olympics isn’t that big a deal. And much of that had to do with the boring format that totally abandoned a team format. Of course golfers are remembered for majors and winning a gold medal is certainly impressive but as far as golf exploding world wide because it’s back in the Olympics the chances are small.

Watching the top players in the world, those that went to Rio win a four round medal play tournament will look the same as if it were the John Deere Classic…except there will be a gold medal ceremony instead of a tractor pull.

But there is a way that Olympic golf will make an impact on the world of sports and no, it is not Sergio getting bitten by one of those weird capybaras that roam Gil Hanse’s layout.rio animal

How about we have a real longshot win the gold. Some player that the world, both golf and otherwise doesn’t know. Some golfer from a country that doesn’t have a billion dollar tour laden with spoiled millionaires jetting to weekly tournaments.

You want Olympic golf to impact the game and “grow the game” as everyone from Tim Finchem to Jack Nicklaus to David Feherty has been declaring the past year…have a real Cinderella Story win the gold.

What if a home grown golfer takes the gold in Rio? Adilson da Silva is a 44 year old Brazilin who plays the Sunshine Tour out of South Africa. Seeing that Rio only had two courses, both private and golf isn’t much of anything in Brazil wouldn’t having the lone Brazilian (who had to leave the country to make a living) win the gold do something for Brazilian golf?

There are many countries represented where their golf profile could benefit from a medal here. Malaysia has Danny Chia and Gavin Kyle Green playing. Chile has Felipe Aguilar and Mexico has Rudolfo Cazaubon in the field and win or a medal could boost golf in each of their respective countries.

But if we really want to grow the game and impact golf in a significant way the IOC should put the fix in for someone like Shiv Sanka Prasad Chawrasia or Wu Ashun or Hangton Li.

Chawrasia, or SSP as he is called hails from India with 1.25 billion people. Maybe a few of them would want to pick up a club if he is standing on the top of the podium. He’s ranked 229th in the world so it wouldn’t just be a boon for golf it would be an amazing story.

Or there are Ashun and Li who are representing China and its 1.357 billion people. With the way China throws money and resources at Olympic sports a gold medal would probably give golf a jump start over there. Now with Ashun at 142nd in the world and Li at 155th they are definitely longshots but stranger things have happened.

Ben Curtis was 396th in the world when he shocked the world to win the Open Championship in 2003. And he had to beat a full field where there are only 60 players teeing it up in Rio.

So if the powers that be really want to grow the game one of those players would be the best bet. A win by Bubba Watson or Justin Rose or even Sergio Garcia would be a great personal achievement. But a win by a golfing nobody with a few billion countryman watching would do so much more for the game.

That’s how you grow the game…Olympic style.


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