Andrew Gaze

• 50
• Five-time Olympian (Basketball)
• Sport Australia Hall-of-Famer
• Golf handicap: 18

Andrew Gaze

I THINK it’s fantastic to see golf back in the Olympics. Personally, I want to see all the major sports represented at the Games. I think golf is recognised globally as an extremely high-participant sport so it’s great to give the sport’s players and fans an opportunity to see it on the biggest sporting stage of all. It will bring a whole new dimension to the Games.

HISTORY shows it will take some time for everyone to get on board with the idea of golf being an Olympic sport. The most recent example is tennis, where initially some of the players were a little hesitant to embrace the Games, believing a gold medal wasn’t their priority. Now I think most of the leading tennis players aspire to go to the Games and represent their country. Hopefully golf embraces that attitude, too. But we can’t judge it on one Olympic Games alone.

OLYMPIC gold is very significant for most basketballers. I don’t think it’s fair to compare, say, an NBA Championship to Olympic Gold, just like you can’t compare a Masters green jacket to gold. But the Games are still highly regarded by the world’s best basketballers. Since 1992, when America started sending their NBA stars – guys like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James – they all still speak highly of the Games. When you’re asked which child you love the most, can you answer it? Of course not – you love them all. It’s the same with an NBA ring or a green jacket. An Olympic gold medal complements both.

THERE are always personal reasons why some players can’t participate in the Olympics. I’m not disappointed guys like Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy have chosen not to go. I think, to be successful, you need to be there for the right reasons. What I will say, though, is their decision to withdraw is one they possibly will regret. I know what they’re missing out on. It’s an incredible experience. The Games only come around every four years and although Scotty’s dreams are probably to win Majors, the chance to have that highly privileged experience of living in the village, mingling with other athletes, it’s something you will never forget. But, it’s a personal decision and one they shouldn’t be condemned for.

I’M A little on the fence for the format they are playing in Rio. My initial reaction was it was a golden opportunity to introduce a teams event for golf, perhaps mixing the men and women and pitting them against each other. On the flipside, the chance to have a more legitimate stroke format is great too because, after being absent from the Games for so long, it reinforces what 72-hole golf is all about.

I GREW up in Albert Park, Melbourne, and was virtually attached to the Albert Park golf course. I’ve never been any good but the joy I get from crushing the ball is so infectious. There’s something special about golf – the way you can compete against yourself and others. Regardless of age, size and other variables that would normally give you an advantage in other sports, golf is a level playing field that allows you to share that experience with people of all levels of standard. Nothing beats the intrinsic reward you get from crushing a ball. It’s what keeps you coming back.

MY CLUBS are very old. I haven’t had a new set in 15 years. Whenever I speak to the experts they tell me they are still good clubs and the mucking around to get my size (Gaze stands 201cm tall) is always a bit of a challenge. I also realise I’m not at that level where any hardware is going to make a profound difference to my game. I’m not at that stage and it’s highly unlikely I will ever get there (laughs). My goal is to one day be at a level that warrants me going into a golf shop and looking at new cubs, knowing it will make a significant difference to my score.

I’M NOT a member anywhere at the moment. I used to play at Long Island and Sandhurst. A friend of mine is a member at The National down on the Mornington Peninsula, so I go down there when I get the time. I still enjoy having a hit at Albert Park or any local public courses. My best official handicap was 18 when I was playing frequently. These days I spend a lot of time at the driving range.

IT CAN get expensive hitting balls and playing a round on the better courses. Then, of course, there’s the time it takes to play 18 holes. You literally have to allocate a significant chunk of your day, particularly on busy public-access courses. The sport can be cost-prohibitive for many people, which is a shame. But I also understand it’s not a cheap exercise to maintain a golf course. The reality is someone has to pay for that. But I certainly think golf is doing a decent job trying to make the sport more accessible for today’s golfer.

Andrew GazeONE of the highlights of my life was playing a round (above) with Greg Norman, Shane Warne and Damien Oliver during an Australian Masters pro-am. To be part of that group was truly an honour. I remember being so nervous on the first hole that I thought there was no possible way I wouldn’t hurt someone. I was confident I would make contact with my first tee shot, but I had no idea where it would go. I thought, surely they have to clear out the galleries here? Fortunately I didn’t hit anyone and Greg was fantastic the whole way around, giving us advice and sharing stories. I remember talking to Warney and saying we should have something on Greg winning that week because he was smashing it and ended up shooting an incredible score. He was ‘the man’ back then and I was the bad golfer of our group. Luckily I wasn’t atrocious, just regular bad with a few pars along the way. I still look back at the pictures from that day. It’s something I will never forget.