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Olympic golf is for amateurs, unless in Moscow

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

George LyonThere is a movement afoot to squeeze golf in there as an Olympic sport, mainly among certain European golfers and those in the United States with vested financial interests.

Golf was an Olympic sport a century ago, when Canadian George Lyon won the last gold medal in the sport. I say we leave George with that asterisk.

From a pure sports point of view, golf deserves to be an Olympic sport. That's almost un-arguable. I mean, what rationale decided that badminton, water polo and that old Olympic whipping girl, synchronized swimming, deserved to have its practitioners earn the supreme medal in sports?

But from another viewpoint, why bother? Even if the world's top pros agreed to play, which the International Olympic Committee has made clear it wants if golf is to be included, it would just be another international event.

If some of them refused to play for whatever reasons - money, travel, having to sleep in the athletes village - you would have controversy that would take away from the rest of the Games. And you know some would sent their regrets.

Hint: Americans.

"It would be great to have an Olympic golf medal," Tiger Woods said at a press conference earlier this year. "But, if you asked any player, "'Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug?,' more players would say win majors."

And if the world's best players didn't show up, you'd have just another second-rate, watered-down tournament, kind of like, say, the John Deere Classic.

Besides, golf is already a global sport. You have the Ryder Cup, us against the Euro-trash every even-numbered year, and the President's Cup, us against the world, minus the Euro-trash, every odd-numbered year. Then you have the World Golf Championships and, for the women, the Solheim Cup every odd-numbered year.

The PGA Tour is certainly international enough - foreigners have won 10 of the last 15 events. The U.S. Open had 23 golfers from different countries.

Look at the top 30 in the world rankings - 13 players from different countries are making money hand over fist.

And the LPGA is practically dominated by robot-like Koreans and one great Swede.

The USGA's David Fay is one of the advocates of Olympic golf, saying golf would be different from other sports, in that golf is an individual sport and golfers would be competing for themselves.

Olympic SportBaloney. You mean to say that if Thomas Levet won the gold, France wouldn't be proclaiming its superiority over the rest of Western civilization?

Fay also has said golf in the Olympics is needed to grow the sport. That's partly true. I doubt it would help the game in the U.S. or Europe, but it would certainly help Bolivia or Sierra Leone if one of their guys won.

Fay is looking at it from a businessman's perspective, as is the IOC with its insistence on letting the pros play for the purpose of TV ratings.

Fay might want to check with the accountants over at the PGA. What would a migration of stars to a summer Olympics do to the tour and its sponsors?

In any case, look what's happened when other U.S. pros played in the Olympics. The first U.S. Dream Team was intriguing, but it became less so, to the point of where we are now: actually feeling sorry for the NBA stars who somehow reached the zenith of the sport without learning to shoot or play zone defense.

I'll admit to a guilty pleasure watching the original Dream Team crush its opponents like vermin, but it also left a bad, lingering aftertaste, like watching your big, older brother beat up your sissy neighbor.

If golf is to be an Olympic sport, open it only to amateurs. And since that will never happen, I say leave it out altogether.

Golf gets enough publicity and its pros make enough money. Let the synchronized swimmers get their share of the glory every four years.

There is, I'll concede, one excellent reason for including golf in the Games. The earliest it could be allowed is 2012, when the Games will be conducted in New York, Paris, Madrid or Moscow.

Wouldn't you dearly love to see the pros, who complain if a green is one or two clicks high on the stimpmeter, be forced to play in Moscow?

It may interest you to know there is exactly one 18-hole golf course in Russia, Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, 45 minutes from the Kremlin and the Moscow zoo.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
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