Debate continues about golf as an Olympic sport

Golf will be returning to the Olympics this month for the first time since 1904. Six years ago when the games were awarded to Rio, there was a lot of excitement in the golf world.

So much has changed in the world of golf since then.

The competition will be played on a golf course designed by architect Gil Hanse that was built after the Olympics was awarded. None of the players have ever played this course before.

The format is 72 holes stroke play with no cut. Sixty men (Aug. 11-14) and 60 women (Aug. 18-21) will make up the field.

The top finisher will win the gold medal; second place, the silver, and third place will get the bronze. In case of a tie, there will be a three-hole playoff.

Players were chosen based on the World Golf rankings. The top 15 golfers in the world rankings gained an automatic entry, with a maximum of four golfers from any one country.

Starting about a month ago, male golf professionals started withdrawing from the competition, citing the Zika virus, while others said that there was too much golf this summer, including two majors, the Fed Ex Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Only 18 male players from the world top 50 will be in Rio. The top four players - Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy - will not be at the games.

Adam Scott, one of the first players to withdraw, said, "Whether I win an Olympic medal is not going to define my career. It's all about the four majors."

McIlroy said he doesn't think golfers should be in the Olympics. "To call yourself an Olympian ... it does an injustice to the people who have trained for four years for this event," McIlroy said.

Representing the United States are Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kucher.

Female golfers had only one player in the top 50 withdraw. The Olympics is a privilege to the women golfers, who don't get the press and money that the men receive.

Stephanie Meadow of Bluffton will be one of those Olympians. Born in Northern Ireland, Meadow came to the U.S. and went to college at the University of Alabama. She played in a couple of tournaments on Hilton Head Island, liked the area and moved here, where she is now golf pro at Berkeley Hall. She will be representing her home country.

Representing the United States are Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller.

So, should golf be an Olympic sport? I think that we should let the top amateurs play for their country. They would consider it a privilege, and it would be an "end all" for their career.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Brown Golf Management courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris @gmail.com; www.golfdoctorjean.com


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