We all know from recent events and announcements that golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 has divided opinion among the stars of the game with a spate of high-profile withdrawals. But a press conference ahead of the Berenburg Gary Player Invitational at Wentworth showed just how divided stars of the game past and present were on the issue, with the five players pretty much offering up five different Olympic golf opinions.
Host of the event, Gary Player, opened up by saying how dismayed he was by the spate of withdrawals, highlighting the potential of the Games to showcase and present golf to a vast worldwide audience and potentially help grow the game in the years ahead. Despite captaining the South Africa side, he also questioned whether professional involvement was really right in the Olympics.
Seated just along from Player was one of his team’s high-profile withdrawees – if such a word exists – Branden Grace. Grace has cited the impending desire to start a family as the reason for his withdrawal, simply unwilling to take what is even a small risk.
For Suzann Pettersen, the sheer importance of the Winter Olympics within her home country meant that she was 100% behind golf’s Olympic return from day one.
Reigning Masters champion, Danny Willett, admitted that he had always been up for it, but understood the various reasons others had given for their withdrawals, while Tom Watson confessed to an old-school approach in which the Olympics should really be the preserve of track and field athletics.
With such a variety of opinion among such a small band, it’s little wonder Olympic golf has been creating many headlines. But as Willett pointed out, there is still going to be an incredibly strong field gathered down in Rio, and those who are hoping that Olympic golf will spark growth in a game struggling at club level in many parts of the world will be keen for Olympic golf to put on a really good show that strengthens its case for ongoing inclusion beyond 2020.