The Beijing Olympics are in full swing and so is the debate over whether golf should be contested at future Olympiads. My promo for last night’s Inside The LPGA attracted a few comments and The Constructivist touched on the subject this morning so it’s probably best that I put my thoughts down in writing. Not that I’m losing any sleep over the pros and cons.
As I said during the show, I don’t have a problem with putting golf in the Olympics. A sport that lends itself well to both individual and team competitions probably should have been included years ago. If professional tennis and basketball players get to be part of the spectacle, there’s no good reason why pro golfers shouldn’t be. The argument that the move will help grow the game is somewhat lost on me, however. For instance, I don’t know if it’s possible for the Asian continent to pick up this game any quicker or with more enthusiasm than they already have. The main reason I would support golf’s inclusion would be the chance to See More Women’s Golf.
The bad news about that point - most likely, any TV coverage that golf would get during the Games would get buried amongst the dozens of other events. Have you been closely following the Olympic tennis results? I’ll bet even the most avid Venus-Serena fans haven’t been able to see each of their matches because of the crowded TV schedule (not that NBC isn’t trying with its 2000 hours of programming) and the wide variety of other available sports. Golf is always competing for attention, and nowhere does the attention get more divided than at the Olympics.
The competition could be truly great. Let’s assume the format would be match play and each round would knock out half of the teams/players. That would have the same international diversity of the World Cup of Golf with Ryder/Solheim Cup intensity plus the prestige and pressure of competing for Olympic gold. You’d have a tough time keeping me away from the tube. A player like Paula Creamer (who already has a fine track record of playing in the name of the U.S.A.) could win team and individual honors, making her marketability even stronger with that “Olympic Champion” label. The LPGA itself could benefit by being involved in the qualifying procedure that players go through to make their homeland’s team. Perhaps these are some of the “growing the game” examples that some folks are thinking of.
Dan Jansen (the Olympic speed skater and husband of my co-host Karen Palacios-Jansen) is of the opinion that the Olympics should only contest the sports that don’t already have their own championships. A tennis player’s summit is Wimbledon - a soccer player’s, the World Cup - a golfer’s, the U.S. or British Open. Competing in the Olympics, while not an afterthought, is not the primary focus for any of these athletes like it is for a swimmer or gymnast. There is great merit in that opinion and if that mold hadn’t already been broken, I might totally agree with it. But in an Olympic landscape which already contains synchronized swimming, beach volleyball and trampoline, there should certainly be enough room for my favorite game.