Adam Scott file photo
The news in the last 24 hours that Adam Scott has withdrawn from the possibility of representing Australia at the Olympics is no real surprise given he has been throwing out signals that, as was the case in 2016, he will put his family, his regular schedule and quest for higher status in the game ahead of an event that does not mean as much to him as others.
Marc Leishman will likely join Cameron Smith as the Australians in the men’s side of the Olympic golf event while Minjee Lee and Hannah Green are those most likely to represent Australia in the female competition.
I admire Scott’s stance on golf in the Olympics and while he might have been a little more interested in 2021 than was the case five years ago, he is clearly not swayed enough and is a man of his convictions.
Scott’s withdrawal and that of one or two of the game’s other elite players including current word number one, Dustin Johnson, (and there may well be more to come before late July) does, however, point to greater issue and whether the inclusion of golf in the Olympic games is relevant, necessary and justifiable.
I am someone who loves the game of golf and have lived it in various capacities, some professional, over the last 55 years and some of it at a very high level, but I have never been and never will be swayed by the argument of golf being part of the Olympics.
Sure, the golfing community will tell you how important it is by promoting the overused cliché of ‘growing the game’ as a result of golf’s inclusion.
I am of the belief however if golf can’t grow itself with the amazing amount of elite and regular events in both the men’s women’s games, both professional and amateur, and the incredible opportunity for exposure they get week in week out, perhaps golf needs look inwardly and just how it goes about growing the game itself.
Typically, on any given week in Australia, I can watch on television as many as six overseas events whereas the ‘lesser’ sports that have been so much of the foundation of the Olympic Games might get some exposure once every six months if they are lucky.
Relying on the funding that the Olympics provides to the grass roots of the game, or at least we hope that funding reaches the grass roots level, seems like a soft way out of taking advantage of the huge base the sport has developed over the last sixty years or so since golf became a highly popular televised sport even without the exposure the Olympics has provided.
I wonder how much of the money generated by the re-inclusion of golf in 2016 actually filtered through to the relevant bodies that run the game in various countries and, if so, does it actually reach the grass roots level?
If a gold medal at the Olympics is not the pinnacle of a sport then does that sport deserve to have a place in the four yearly sports festival for sports that, typically, do not get the level of profile that golf and tennis get on an almost weekly basis?
Does a winning of a gold medal make the champion the greatest player on the planet? It might for one week but very soon after there will be another event to again determine the best player in the game.
If a cyclist or a wrestler or a swimmer or a badminton player wins in Tokyo then they can rightly claim the mantle at the top of their sport for four years.
And while I would agree that the golf’s gold medal’s importance and status will likely grow if the event remains in the Olympics, it is hardly ever likely to reach the importance of a Green Jacket or a US Open (men’s or women’s) or Open Championship or a Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup for example.
There feels like an element of greed in golf’s long-time push for inclusion but to some extent it I think there is more in it for the Olympics than the game.
If the object of the golf’s exercise by being included in the Olympics is to fund the game’s growth then perhaps if it is to be included it should be focused on a level other than the elite of the game who perhaps feel (rightly or wrongly) they would rather be elsewhere.
I say leave the Olympics to the sports that most need and deserve it and let golf have its constant place in the sun and not muscle in on a four yearly spectacle that should be reserved for the sports that need exactly that and benefit most from it.