So potential Olympic golf participants are dropping like flies – ok, maybe that’s an unfortunate simile given the Zika virus threat in Rio de Janeiro. But so far, 11 top ranked players have pulled out, many of whom have cited Zika as a compelling factor (Jason Day is the latest to announce). To be fair, athletes in other sports have similar qualms, but in the case of golf, I think Adam Scott was maybe a bit more forthright in his reasoning; that being that it doesn’t fit his schedule. Scott took a beating from former Olympian Dawn Fraser and Jack Nicklaus (“a sad, sad day for golf”) for bypassing the Olympics, but truthfully, professional golf has no place there. The game has its own major championships and international competitions. In order to accommodate the Olympics, the golf tours had to compress their schedules so that there is now a two week gap between the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, with the Olympics following two weeks later. It’s a lot of travel with no tangible return for the golfer, other than a piece of gold, silver, or bronze.
The Olympics are a showcase for folks like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and the like – names to which the greater population pay attention every four years and then recede in the collective unconsciousness. While professional basketball and ice hockey have somewhat embraced the Olympics, they are team sports with recognizable names that glitz up the competition. The qualifying rules for Olympic golf pretty much guarantee a weak field, and the format (72 hole individual medal play) is not particularly compelling.
If golf is to remain in the Olympics, make it strictly for amateur players and design the competition to include some team aspect.
Although the thought of Miguel Angel Jimenez strolling through the Olympic Village with a cigar in one hand and a fine port in the other is intriguing.
The recent “Brexit” vote (and is it just me, or are these compacted references – “Bradjolina”! – just a bit too precious?) had USA golf fans wondering (or perhaps it was wishful thinking?) about UK golfers’ continued participation in the Ryder Cup on the European side. European Tour officials were very quick to respond that Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy et al are still in the mix. Davis Love III and the US team will still have their work cut out for them at Hazeltine this September.
Given the horrendous devastation and human cost from the flooding in West Virginia, the PGA’s decision to cancel the Greenbrier Classic was essentially a no-brainer. The event will certainly be missed, as it’s become a Tour favorite ever since Jim Justice took over the historic resort in 2009. The Greenbrier has hosted over 20 Presidents, and its Old White course, a C.B. MacDonald/Seth Raynor favorite, is as fine an example of classic architecture that can be found in the United States.
Many years ago, four of piled into a rented Ford Pinto (complete with automatic transmission) and made a mid-semester break trip from Milwaukee to Charlottesville, VA. At that time, Interstate 64 ended in Charleston, WV, which meant that we had to take US 60, a meandering route cut through the Allegheny Mountains where we alternatively encountered breathtaking views, strip mines, and small towns that looked to have been abandoned. We would get stuck behind 18-wheelers climbing mountains. The driver would stick out his arm to wave us past him; I’d pull into the left lane, floor the accelerator, and nothing would happen for what seemed to be an eternity until the transmission kicked in.
This all went on for almost three nerve-wracking hours when from out of nowhere, a verdant green valley appeared and a sign read, “Welcome to Greenbrier County.” We all collectively exhaled as we drove past the majestic resort. I had never seen such beautiful country – nor seen so many businesses that posted photos of Sam Snead, who was the resident pro at the Greenbrier for years. Restaurants, car dealerships, real estate offices – the Slammer was ever-present, including the place where we stopped to eat. A kindly older waitress took a look at us as we walked in– we all sported a ‘70’s post-hippie look – and sweetly noted, “Y’all aren’t from here, are you?”
I ache for the folks of West Virginia, and hope there is a road to recovery for those most impacted. And that folks can tee it up at Old White again in the not-too-distant future.