IT seems professional golfers never wanted an Olympic medal around their necks.
It’s a trophy many elite tour pros consider foreign to our game, and you have to respect their personal decisions to withdraw from the 2016 Rio Games.
I tend to agree with them – I cannot picture three golfers standing up on a podium with the Olympic rings in the background while someone hands out gold, silver and bronze. Can you blame me? It’s been 112 years!
Yet an Olympic medal isn’t nearly as weird as some of the bizarre trophies I encountered during my playing days. Two stand out particularly well.
The first was in 1988, when I was playing the Bridgestone ASO Open in Japan. I was coming down the last hole of the final round when I saw a cow ‘mooing’ near the 18th green. I thought, What on earth is a cow doing there? It was distracting me from putting. It turned out to be a Kobe beef cow – which produces the most expensive beef in the world and can cost a hungry diner $350 for a single cut of steak. It was one of the prizes for the winner, in addition to – wait for it – $100,000 worth of steel…
If you’re wondering what the winner did with some steel and expensive beef, you’ll have to ask Ian Baker-Finch, who won the tournament.
The weirdest trophy I won as a player wasn’t abnormal in itself, but more the way I had to collect it. It was my first ever victory as a professional at the Tahiti Open in 1986. One of the tournament organisers told me to arrive at the presentation dinner in a sarong. While I was reluctant, I obliged.
When I got there, the resort pool had a wooden log across the surface and in the middle was the winner’s cheque in an envelope. They told me I had to walk out and take the envelope myself. The catch was the log was greased up, so I kept slipping into the water. After several failed attempts, I was wondering whether the $US8,000 was even worth it. But I took a run up, lunged at the envelope and grabbed that bad boy mid-air. Isn’t winning a golf tournament hard enough?
The difficulty of winning a golf tournament on a primary tour, particularly a Major championship, is why I can’t condemn any golfer from withdrawing. Particularly given the risks associated with Brazil and, more importantly, that those risks are not worth it to athletes inspired only by four trophies. They may be worth it to sportspeople who train for four years for one event, but our game is governed by Major championships and it’s what every golfer dreams of achieving.
I certainly can’t pretend to be angered by Jason Day’s withdrawal when it paved the way for him to confirm his place at Royal Sydney, alongside Jordan Spieth, for the Australian Open in November. Day and Spieth, world No.1 and No.2 (at the time of writing) are not only going to contest our national championship, but possibly the World Cup of Golf, too. It’s a credit to the tournament that it continues to go from strength to strength, and is slowly reclaiming the status the Stonehaven Cup held in the 1960s and ‘70s when Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player didn’t miss an Aussie Open.
The crowds will flock to Royal Sydney and the Seven Network is seeing the fruits of sticking by Aussie golf when it dipped in popularity for several years.
It’s going to be a massive Aussie summer, and to quote Big Kev, “I’m excited.”
– Brett Ogle is the host of the Fox Sports Golf Show and a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour.