Golf receives final approval, will be part of 2016 Olympics

October 08, 2009
PGATOUR.COM news and wire services

COPENHAGEN -- After an absence of more than a century, golf will return as an Olympic sport in 2016 and 2020 along with rugby sevens following their approval by the International Olympic Committee membership during the IOC's 121st Session.

Golf was approved 63-27 with two abstentions. Rugby was voted in 81-8 with one abstention.

The vote also was a victory for Jacques Rogge, the IOC president who was re-elected to a final four-year term hours earlier. The 67-year-old Belgian, the president since 2001, was the only candidate.

"Time will show your decision (on the new sports) was very wise," Rogge said.

They will be part of the Olympic Programme in Rio de Janeiro, which last week was selected as the host city for 2016 Games by the IOC. Golf was last an Olympic sport at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Mo., when the United States and Canada were the only two competing countries.

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Golf in 2016 Games
For more on golf's rise to become an Olympic sport in 2016, check out PGATOUR.COM's Olympic page. Click here
If Olympics began today
Take a look at the 60 qualifiers for the 72-hole stroke-play competition if it started today. Click here
Players react
From Angel Cabrera to Tiger Woods, we asked the reactions of Presidents Cup participants regarding Olympic golf in 2016. Click here
Finchem: Great for golf
PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem spoke on Friday at Harding Park regarding the Olympic announcement. Transcript | Video interview
Audio: Votaw
Ty Votaw, executive director of the International Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee, spoke to the PGA TOUR Network regarding golf's admission. Listen

"We are elated that the IOC membership has accepted golf as an Olympic sport, and look forward to seeing the world's best golfers compete for gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," said Ty Votaw, Executive Director of the International Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee, which has coordinated golf's Olympic bid. "We thank the IOC for its support, and also congratulate rugby sevens for its inclusion in the 2016 Games."

Votaw and Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A and joint secretary of the International Golf Federation, were accompanied by professionals Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Michelle Wie of the United States and Suzann Pettersen of Norway, as well as 16-year-old (British) Amateur Champion Matteo Manassero of Italy, for a final presentation to the IOC prior to the vote.

"We are extremely grateful that Padraig, Michelle, Suzann and Matteo were able to join us to help communicate the genuine interest world-class players of all ages share in golf becoming an Olympic sport," Dawson said.

Golf and rugby sevens were recommended for the Olympic Programme by the IOC Executive Board in August following an extensive review process involving seven sports that were vying to be added to the 2016 Olympic Games. Although they emerged as the finalists, both sports still required final approval today by a majority of votes cast by the members of the IOC.

"In addition to those golfers who will have an opportunity to compete as Olympic athletes, we are excited for the national golf federations that will reap the benefits from today's decision in terms of growth and support within their countries," Dawson said. "This is a very significant day for golf."

Leading up to today's final vote, golf and rugby sevens emerged from a year-long evaluation that included formal presentations by the seven sports, the submission of a Detailed Questionnaire and responses to questions raised by both the IOC Programme Commission and the IOC Executive Board. The IOC Executive Board announced its recommendation of two sports following a meeting in Berlin, Germany on Aug. 13.

"We strongly believed that golf deserved to be added to the Olympic Programme and felt that we presented a compelling case to the IOC," Votaw said. "We have received unprecedented support from international golf organisations throughout this process, as well as from the world's top-ranked men and women players, which was critical to our success. We also stressed the universal nature of golf, with 60 million people playing the sport in more than 120 countries."

Based on player feedback, the IGF has proposed a format of 72-hole individual stroke play for both men and women. In case of a tie for either first, second or third place, a three-hole playoff is recommended to determine the medal winner(s).

The IGF also has recommended an Olympic field of 60 players for each of the men's and women's competition, using the Official World Golf Rankings as a method of determining eligibility. The top-15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players would be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.

Current world rankings from both the men's and women's games show that at least 30 countries would be represented in both the men's and women's competitions, from all continents, under this proposal.

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Current world No. 1 Tiger Woods has indicated he would play in the Olympics for 2016.

"There are millions of young golfers worldwide who would be proud to represent their country," Woods said from the Presidents Cup in San Francisco. "It would be an honor for anyone who plays this game to become an Olympian."

Other stars from around the globe rejoiced in the decision.

"Golf is in the Olympics!" retired star Annika Sorenstam posted on Twitter on her 39th birthday "So excited to have been a part of the presentation to IOC. Great B-Day gift today."

England's Ian Poulter added on Twitter: "I think it will be awesome to grow the game of golf, and it would be an honor to play for (your) country."

The venue and schedule for both sports in Rio de Janeiro has yet to be decided. The golf tournament will not necessarily be played Thursday through Sunday," Votaw said.

"It might be Wednesday to Saturday," Votaw said. "Or it might be that the women's competition is first, and the men's is second. ... All of those things need to be worked out over the next seven years."

Padraig Harrington and Michelle Wie addressed the IOC in person before the vote. Wie talked about taking up golf when she was 4 but never being able to dream of an Olympic medal until now.

"I can dream about doing something that neither Tiger nor Ernie (Els) have ever done, and that is to make the final putt to win an Olympic gold medal," Wie said. "If this dream comes true, somewhere in the world there will be another 4-year-old who sees me on that podium and perhaps starts her own Olympic dream."