[PHOTO: Drew Hallowell]

The LPGA Tour posted on Tuesday that Dewi Weber [above] had qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and that could have been the culmination of a dream for the Dutchwoman. Text messages poured into Weber’s phone congratulating her on the accomplishment, a fitting celebration just a week ahead of her wedding.

However, Weber, 28, has had to painfully answer that, despite being eligible for Paris, the Netherlands will not allow her to play. Her homeland had four golfers eligible – Anne van Dam being the other golfer on the women’s side, and Darius van Driel and Joost Luiten for the men – but because of the nation’s separate qualification rules for golf, only van Dam will represent the Dutch.

“Our own country is saying we don’t think you’re worthy of being an Olympian, and you’re not worthy of representing the Netherlands,” Weber told Golf Digest on Tuesday. “And that, honestly, that hurts. We even asked them, ‘Hey, is this about money? Like, we will pay for it ourselves. Our federation will pay for it.’

“And they said no, we just don’t think you’re worth it going to the Olympics. That is such a hurtful and sad message to send to elite athletes like us who have proven, according to the IOC and IGF standards, that we are worthy of doing that and we want nothing more than to represent our country and do all the things that the Olympics are about.”

Per the Netherlands Olympic Committee/Dutch Sports Federation, it has set internal standards for all sports to meet a “realistic chance” of a place in the top eight in the Olympics. The body disagrees with the golf qualification standards set by the International Olympic Committee and International Golf Federation, which allows each country to have up to two representatives at the Games unless they have more than two in the top 15 in the world golf rankings, in which case they can have up to four players reach the 60-player field.

“After a careful analysis of the results in golf, it has become clear that the requirement from the IOC does not provide sufficient prospect of achieving a position in the top eight of the field,” the federation said in a statement that Golf Digest translated from NOS, a Dutch news outlet. “That is why the [Dutch] golf association and [the federation] agreed on an additional national requirement.”

The additional requirements have been in place since golf returned to Rio in 2016. Women must be among the top 24 in the Olympic Golf Ranking (OGR), and the men must be in the top 27. Luiten represented the Netherlands in 2016, where he finished T-27. He was denied, along with Wil Besseling, from playing in Tokyo in 2021 for missing the national requirement. Van Dam was the only Dutch player in Tokyo three years ago and finished in 57th place.

None of Netherlands’ four eligible players met the above requirement for 2024. The top OGR ranking at the cutoff date was held by van Dam (34th), followed by Luiten (40th), van Driel (50th) and Weber (58th).

The Dutch federation added an alternative path late last year for those who fail to meet the first requirement. If a player is among the top 59 in OGR, players can designate up to eight tournaments with a strong field of participants and need at least a top-eight finish. Van Dam’s runner-up in the LET’s Tour Championship last November made her eligible.

“To be honest, I don’t think [the extra standards] make any sense,” van Dam said to NOS news.

Luiten, a six-time winner on the DP World Tour, criticised the national Olympic qualification requirements last July. He pointed out that Rory Sabbatini, representing Slovakia, won a silver medal in Tokyo without a top-100 ranking.

“I think it’s a shame that things aren’t being expanded a little,” Luiten said. “Then more Dutch people also have a chance. Van Dam was there in Tokyo, Wil Besseling was not. More participants would be good for Dutch golf and for the medal chances. It is a great pity that [the Dutch federation] ruins those chances itself.”

In one final push, on June 14, the Netherlands Golf Federation (NGF), along with Luiten, met with the federation and gave an extensive presentation on golf-specific information to clarify why Luiten, van Dreil and Weber could all potentially play well at Le Golf National, the 2024 Olympic golf venue.

Joost Luiten acknowledges the crowd at the 2024 KLM Open. [Photo: Octavio Passos]
Weber saw the data ahead of the meeting and said it ranged from generalities to specifics of the sport. The probability of a top-eight finish is higher in the Olympics compared to LPGA and PGA Tour events because there are only 60 players instead of a typical 144 to 156. Results at one tournament often don’t correlate to others due to varying grass types, climates and hole designs at courses. Results such as world No.276 Lauren Hartlage’s T-5 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last weekend happen in golf. While uncommon, victories from the LPGA and PGA Tour do come from those outside the top 100 in the world.

“Despite these efforts, no other Dutch golfers will be sent to the Olympic Games in Paris besides Anne van Dam,” the Netherlands Golf Federation said in a statement. “[The Dutch Olympic federation] believes that there is insufficient reason to deviate from the national criteria.”

The governing bodies have decided to meet to discuss the national selection criteria for the 2028 Games on a “different, more realistic basis” based on golf specifically. That doesn’t remedy the frustration from a lifelong dream missed for Weber to represent her country in the Olympics.

“Why don’t you change that for this year already?” Weber questioned. “You admit that there have been mistakes that have been made because your original criteria weren’t conducive to the sport that we play. Not changing them then for this year makes no sense in my mind. Like, why does four years make a difference?”