Olympics could take golf to new places

It’s not that this is golf’s first dance with the Olympic Games, and there are pros and there are cons. From his fishing boat in Wyoming, where the brown trout were striking, Billy Payne spoke enthusiastically.

“I’m excited about it. I’m an advocate of spreading the game around the world, and what better way than through the Olympic Games,” said Payne, the president of Augusta National, which one might describe as the heartbeat of golf in this country.

From his summer home in the Grand Tetons, Payne had hardly had time to digest the news from the IOC executive committee meeting in Berlin. And that Tiger Woods and Anika Sorenstam, among others, were among vigorous supporters. Exciting stuff to Payne, the man who had brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996.

Golf was on his hope list of events, and Augusta National would have been the site, although he was not yet a member of the club. But, opposition arose not only from Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the IOC, but locally. One member of the city council presented a motion that would have, in effect, opposed it, and there was no chance, so the golf movement never got off the tee.

This is different, although golf, along with rugby, must still pass the full membership ballot. It is not surprising that the golfing clique is leaning heavily on Woods’ name as a major selling point. Payne, on the other hand, sees the Olympics as more than a short-term energizer for the game, but a way of reaching smaller countries in the world.

“What better way than through the Olympics. I wish we might have done it in the Atlanta Games,” he said, “but it became apparent we didn’t have the support. What more attractive place to show golf to the world than Augusta National.”

Golf made its first, and only appearance on the Olympic schedule in 1904, when St. Louis was host to the Games. There were only two events, an individual and a team championship.

A Canadian, George Lyon, was the individual champion, and the USA swept the team trophies, led by Chandler Egan, one of the country’s more renowned amateurs. Golf never made the venue again. Should golf carry the membership vote, this might be a stroke in favor of Chicago, one of the bidding sites. Some of the countries finest courses are located in the area, Cog Hill, Medinah, Olympia Fields, Midlothian and Skokie, where historic championships have been held.

On the other hand, there are critics, such as one I just read that called it “a goofy move. Golf already has world championships, such as the Masters, the U.S. and British Open, and who would rather have an Olympic medal than a Masters Green Jacket?”

This misses Payne’s point.

“Think of the smaller countries of the world that golf might reach,” he said. “I’m excited about what it might mean to smaller nations where young people wouldn’t otherwise ever have a chance at the game.”
So there it stands — at the mercy of 105 IOC executive committee members.

“Cross your fingers,” Payne said.

23 comments Add your comment


August 15th, 2009
10:19 pm

I’ve played many a round of golf and played rugby in college. I’ve been to the Masters, the US Open and Scotland-Ireland Five Nations (six now?) match. These are two of the greatest sports played on earth and are clearly deserving of Olympic status. That being said, neither sport needs the Olympics to justify their worth.


August 16th, 2009
5:02 am

Golf doesn’t NEED to be in the Olympics like perhaps other sports.

Can anyone think of a sport that has as much of a consistent world participation already?

If there is a 20 year old star from Uganda or Iceland that is excited to finally compete he probably isn’t good enough anyway or he’d already be on tour.


August 16th, 2009
7:27 am

Golf is too good a game for the Olympics and their cliquish, elitist leadership. The perfect game shouldn’t sully itself. The Olympics as a very important event is ebbing while golf, worldwide, is still ascending. The Olympics needs golf more than the other way around. Let’s just leave it be.

Ken Stallings

August 16th, 2009
3:20 pm

Golf is one of the few truly international sports that do not need the Olympics. They established their international credentials well before the Olympics truly established their’s!

However, the Olympics kicked soccer out and softball, and it appears baseball isn’t secure in all quarters of the IOC. One wonders if the Olympics are not reneging on a sincere desire to reflect the world sports environment. We have such niche sports as “rhythmic gymnastics” but golf, soccer, baseball and softball appear in crises! Anyone getting the logic of that?

Other than in the Olympics, do any humans actually practice running around twirling a ribbon on a string and stand around actually judging it on the merits?

On the other hand, folks all across the world hit a little white ball with a stick and regard it more lovingly than Mark Twain’s observation of a “good walk spoiled!”

I for one would much rather see the Summer Olympics focus on baseball, softball, mens and womens soccer, and golf. Leave the ribbons on the birthday gifts where they belong!

Austin Rhodes

August 16th, 2009
7:01 pm

That ONE member of the Atlanta City Council was Bill Campbell. As an Augustan, I owe him a punch in the mouth for that one.


August 16th, 2009
10:13 pm

Austin (love your show, btw) is 100% right about this. Not having the Olympics at Augusta National is just another example in a long line of examples of the Atlanta City Council using what they perceive as a race issue to get what they want. There is still a lot of bitterness in Augusta towards Atlanta because of the 1996 Olympics.

For those who don’t remember: there was a big press conference at Augusta National and Olympic golf was set to take off at that storied course. The Augusta National members were supportive of the idea and graciously offered up the course for the competition. Bill Campbell stepped in and complained that because there were no black members at The National, that there should be no golf at Augusta. Remember: Augusta National allows ANYONE who qualifies for The Masters to play in the tournament, and there are no rules against non-white males to be members–it just has not happened to this point (much to Campbell’s and Burke’s disgust). Campbell got his way and created a larger rift than he probably thought with the citizens of Augusta. I’m certain that the citizens of Cobb County feel the same way.

As they always do, Augusta National came out of the situation with class and did not allow the Atlanta City Council to, at least publicly, dampen the greatness which is the club & The Masters.

What’s a real travesty here is that Bisher wouldn’t point out the actual reason as to why there was no 1996 Olympic Golf and merely eluded to it. A true journalist would have shared the whole story.


August 16th, 2009
10:42 pm

You guys are forgetting to mention that Bill Campbell is a convicted felon.

Tom S.

August 17th, 2009
3:12 am

“PRO’S and “CON’S! World and PGA Tour Golf Professionals don’t need to play in the Olympics, but World Ranked Golf Ameteurs should. It should be a format, to arrive on the World Tours after performing. Maybe you need to be 20 years of age to break on to the TOUR.
The “CON’S”. Billy Payne, not a rich or good attorney to begin with, but seizes the cause of the Atlanta Olympic Games and wins. Now he chairs tournaments, runs Augusta National, hob nobs with the rich and famous and fishs the rivers of his home in the “Grand Tetons”!
That is exactly the problem with the Olympics.
That is the problem with most high-fullooten money grabbin folks.
Even Bill Campbell went to an upscale country club prison.
Make life real you guys!


August 17th, 2009
8:12 am

Please explain how a huge international sport like golf is not in the games yet some dumb non sport like water ballet or whatever is? Someone please explain.


August 17th, 2009
2:11 pm

Tiger would look good with a gold medal around his neck.
We could call him Mr. T.

NeNe's Greg's boss

August 17th, 2009
3:15 pm

Whatever. The real “housewives” of Atlanta are a disgrace. Foreclosures,bar room brawls, and no baby daddy in sight(KIM)…..yeah these people are Atlanta’s elite. They are more like our shame.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

August 17th, 2009
6:04 pm

Not sure if anybody saw the Golf Channel’s coverage about this…but Brandel Chablee was for it..(Olympic Golf..).and Frank Nobilo against it….Frank ate his lunch….it’s not rocket science, folks..Golf does NOT need the Olympics…..next case your Honor….

[...] See the article here: Olympics could take golf to new places | Furman Bisher [...]

Furman Bisher

August 20th, 2009
3:02 am

Speaking of new places, does anyone remember where I left my bedpan?!

Oh no- I just made another doodie. Can someone help me change my adult diaper?!

Anybody seen Grizzard lately?!


August 20th, 2009
9:43 am

Fertheluvagawd…..golf is not a sport. It’s a game, just like darts and checkers. When a 59 year old man threatens to win one of your majors, you have eliminated yourself from being considered anything close to a sport. If you play golf to get your exercise, you are one pitiful speciman of a man. Is it hard? Absolutely. But so is bowling and chess, but you won’t see them included in SportsCenter. The ball just sits there, you don’t run up to hit it, don’t run after you hit it, you don’t pick it up and run with it and it involves no athletic skill whatsoever. Put your depends back on, take your Geratol and go wqnder around a field in search of a little white ball. Leave sports and the Olympics to the big boys.

tiger woods

August 20th, 2009
10:14 am

greg, you are educated, intelligent and well rounded person. You have no IQ issues. Just next time when you are watching this “some dumb non sport like ballet, or whatever” get your dvd, record their performance and replay it 20 times. Then see if you are able to comprehend anything these athletes do. you will never be able even to try to perform what they do. Just try to hang your body from waste down above the water for about 5 seconds, while being upside down and not holding your nose, and of course in sync with other swimmers…Perhaps then you will understand what sport is….


August 20th, 2009
10:59 am

I’m aa avid golfer and golf doesn’t need nor belong in the Olympics. Throughout most of the world golf is an elitist sport like polo. Try to find a decent public course in most of Africa, South America, Asia or Eastern Europe.
Also, golf is one of the few sports that can be played on an individual or team basis. Would the format be teams from different countries playing each other (like in college in the US or Ryder Cup) or individual competition? Match play or not?
Also, there is plenty of world-wide golf competition every week. We all know who the world’s top golfers are today. Golf doesn’t need the Olympics to display its top players the wat other sports do.
Still, I’d like to see what the Kenyan golf team could do. “Cool Putting”?
BTW Furman: don’t know why posters come onto this site to insult you only to prove their own ignorance and incivility. Keep up the good work; grew up reading you vs. Jesse Outlar; always a good read.


August 20th, 2009
11:12 am

Should be “an avid golfer”


August 22nd, 2009
7:20 am

If the Olympics uses professionals in golf– and they will- the USA will totally dominate. If you have 4-6 players per country to decide the team gold medal winner it will be “no contest.” Then the IOC, as they are doing with softball– will halt golf to prevent the USA from winning more hardware. The Masters, US and British Opens are the crown jewels of golf, just as Wimbledon, the US and the French Opens are in tennis. And nobody pays any attention to Olympic tennis.


August 22nd, 2009
3:06 pm

Golf should not be in the Olympics. A gold medal in golf will never be more desired than a win at one of the majors, just like it already is with tennis.

Not to mention, the Olympics are about athletics and golf is not an athletic event. It requires a lot of skill but absolutely no amount of athleticism. Anything you can do comfortably while drinking a beer just does not qualify as athletic.

Also, I completely disagree with Payne’s point. The absolute last thing “smaller nations” need is a bunch of developers coming in tearing up houses and ruining the environment to put in a golf course. Golf allready gets plenty of exposure in the only place it is practical to play, the rich Western World.

Non Sequitur

September 19th, 2009
6:05 pm

No world championship can hold a candle to an Olympic medal.

Regardless of how tough league or tournament competition is, winning it all for your country trumps all.

Meanwhile, adding rugby to the Games is also a genius move, although it may end up being a battle between South Africa, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Stay tuned for some GREAT matches!!


October 3rd, 2009
7:26 am

If golf can make it in, there’s high hopes for darts in 2020 – excellent news. I hear shuffleboard can be pretty intense as well – hope we can get that one in.


May 9th, 2010
3:58 pm

Ok I know golf isn’t as athletic as soccer or baseball, but it is one of the most mentally frustrating games ever invented. A course can be 7000 yds. thats about four miles with a heavy bag on your back in the heat, rain, or cold.

This quote describes the game perfectly – “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” Arnold Palmer.

A good golf game depends on many athletic and mental aspects. Proper technique is essential for a good shot. Flexibility helps bring the club around to build more power, and the faster you can move your hips, the more powerful the swing. A strong athletic stance will improve the quality of the shot. Every shot depends on the attitude about the previous shot, concentration, and routine.

Please think before assuming things about sports. Golf is athletic.