As Olympic fervor takes centre stage during those blessed two weeks of slander, vilification, defamation, and illicit drug usage, many that belong to the golf-ball-striking fold ponder the possibilities of golf becoming an event in the Olympics. It is often with much passion that this topic is discussed.
Many 'purists' would rather not see the greatest game on earth subject to biased judging, blood doping, and flag stomping. Others feel that the Olympics is the greatest stage in the world for sport and believe that it's a shame that golf is not represented. Regardless of your opinion, golf as an Olympic sport would no doubt be entertaining, intriguing, and of course, controversial.
Naturally, there would be some difficult questions to ask before our great game could be included. For example, what would the format be? Single match play? Stroke play? Pairs? Synchronised shotmaking? And what about Ice Golf in the Winter Olympics? Or how about having a panel of bribe-seeking, conniving judges that would evaluate a player's technical merit and presentation? So many choices.
Obviously, the chosen format would have a bearing on which country would be favored to win. For example, if they choose single match play it would be tough not to give the nod to the Americans. With their impressive record in the Ryder Cup, their tenacity in competing, and the way they storm greens before matches have been decided, they should be a shoe-in for gold. Throw in home soil advantage and you've got the makings for an unabashed annihilation.
If the chosen format would be synchronised shotmaking, it would have to be the Spaniards who would come out on top. Side by side, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria 'I-lost-my-ball' could blast them into the woods with unequivocal precision. Finishing a close second would be the Swedish glamour duo of Jesper Parnevik and Per-Ulrik Johansson. When you consider their rock-solid skills - and throw in the fact that they'd just blind the rest of the field with their matching yellow pants and blue shirts (Sweden's team colors) - it would be difficult not to imagine them on the podium.
If golf were to be judged, it would likely turn into a hooliganistic gong show - a cross between a Jerry Springer talk show and figure skating. Nonetheless, it would make for a good 'grab-the-popcorn-and-get-the-vocal-cords-ready' type format. It would be difficult to award good technical merit points to a guy like Sergio Garcia, however, his presentation marks could be off the scale. A player like Ernie Els would have a good chance to score well in both categories, however, throw in a French judge and a few members of the mafia and who knows what would ensue. Any way you look at it, something ugly would surely happen.
As far as ice golf in the Winter Olympics goes, it would be foolish not to mention the toque wearin', maple syrup slurpin', back bacon fryin', puck-shootin' Canuckle Heads to the north [I think he means Canadians, Ed]. The Canadian team [See, told you, Ed] of Mike Weir, Ian Leggatt, Richard Zokol, and Glen Hnatiuk would skate circles around the competition, making the rest of the world look like a bunch of monkeys on blades. Throw in a bulked-up Dave Barr coming out of retirement to tend the goal, ah, I mean the hole, and sure as you can watch your dog run away for three days in Saskatchewan, it would be gold for Canada.
While potential 'controversies' involving golf at the Olympics would certainly stem from the IOC's chosen format, problems could occur on other fronts as well. While it's doubtful we'd see Kelly Robbins beat the kneecaps off of Annika Soremstam with her five-iron in the Gold Medal match, it's likely that the stench of cheating would infiltrate the event.
Take, for example, drug usage. Professional golfers are foreign to the IOC's stringent demands on athletes avoiding the use of performance enhancing substances. But, as many of us know, things like cough syrup, painkillers, and other household medications may contain banned substances. (And then there are the cigars. God only knows how many banned substances are found in a good Cuban.) These strict policies would likely mean a number of golfers wouldn't make it through the games with a clean record.
Another potential controversy would be the IOC's decision regarding the inclusion or exclusion of professional golfers in the Olympics. The Olympic hockey tournament at the 2002 Salt Lake games proved how successful appearances by professional athletes can be.
There's no doubt golf would be a lacklustre event if a no-name four-handicapper from Turkey would play a 12-handicapper from Kazakstan in a medal match. Of course, just like Eddy the Eagle (the tragically inept ski jumper from Britain) proved in the 1988 games in Calgary, sometimes falling flat on your face can do amazing things for your popularity. Sadly, he did it off a 90 metre ski jump.
An obvious progression from the issue involving amateur players - and one that could get the public switching to wrestling re-runs in a hurry - would be the inclusion of golfers who aren't really golfers, but rather, athletes from obscure countries looking for a free ticket to get to the games. If the IOC would not adhere to strict qualifying requirements it would be entirely possible that we would see, say, a couple of Sherpas from Kathmandu blaze around the course in 142 strokes each. Not that there is a problem with Sherpas playing golf, but from what I'm told they're gifted in other areas (like packing around overweight North American businessmen to the top of Mt.Everest).
Regardless of your stance on the issue, golf in the Olympics would draw much interest. From 'Eddie The Eagle' resurfacing on the Saudi Arabian golf team to Jamaican ex-bobsledders trying to get it airborne, golf at the Olympics would be full of intrigue, drama, and suspense. Bring it on I say.
Andrew Penner is a Canadian golf pro and compiled this column while practising his synchronised joined-up writing.
Andrew's book 'One Flew over the Caddyshack' will be available in November and details will be available at www.falconpress.com.
|| 15 - AUGUST 2002