“I’m proud of you and I would like to be an Olympian like you one day.”
These are the powerful words that every athlete – and people involved in every Olympic sport – are honoured to hear.
Edie, who is a first-grade student from the Gold Coast, wrote these words in a letter to Hannah Green on Monday to wish her luck at her first Olympics:
As the letter appeared in Twitter news feeds courtesy of City of Gold Coast councillor Glenn Tozer’s tweet, it naturally brought a smile to the faces of all who saw it. For the golf community, those smiles had a deeper meaning to them – Olympic golf is achieving its goal of inspiring the next generation.
Social media has been awash with photoshopped images of Aussie kids alongside their Olympic heroes, videos of kids in green and gold yelling, “Go Aussies”, and letters like Edie’s to show how much the Olympics mean.
For the sports that regularly dominate the news cycle this is commonplace, but for golf – while not new – it is an exciting development.
In particular, the women’s game is benefiting greatly. Hannah Green and Minjee Lee are now household names – Google searches for them have hit peak popularity in the past week – and this increases interest in golf.
Every sport relies on that interest in individuals to grow the game. People typically play a sport because their family or friends play or follow it. However, the Olympics is a unique opportunity to attract those with no existing connection to a sport. No tour event or Major championship can do this for golf as successfully.
Children, like Edie, learn about Olympians through stickers and at school they do Olympic-themed activities. This is where they get to know the athletes and their interest grows. They get to know Hannah Green because she wears a bucket hat, just like they do. They get to know Minjee Lee because she represents a diverse Australia, just like they do.
Children become what they see. This is why the Olympics are so important because they create the first steps. They are the first exposure to the game and are the reason for the first time swinging a club.
The naysayers who argue that golf does not need the Olympics because it has big championships and big tours miss this important point. Winning medals at the Olympics is great, but inspiring others to hit the course is the true purpose of Olympic golf.
Australia is very lucky to have four outstanding golfers fulfilling that purpose.