Do golfers deserve a spot on the Olympic podium?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Olympics? I can tell you it’s probably not golf.

With golf making its return to the Olympics after 112 years, it raises some questions about whether or not it deserves to be there. Not even deserve, but should golf be an Olympic sport?

Source: Golf Channel
Source: Golf Channel

The Debate:

Golf was brought back to the Olympics by a committee of people who sat down and thought this would be a great thing for the games and for the growth of golf. Everyone was on board for at least two summer seasons, as golf will be included in Rio and Tokyo in 2020, to see how the sport fairs on the global scale.

Many within the sport were excited, including the late Arnold Palmer, who wrote an open letter explaining his happiness for the inclusion of golf in the Olympics.

“I’ll be rooting for America, but pulling for the sport of golf.”

Arnold Palmer

What this process has done, is set golf apart from the Olympic sports that have been in the games for decades. Sure, golfers had since 2009 to prepare for the thought of being an Olympian but track stars and gymnasts are trained from infancy to compete in the Olympics and aim for the gold.

Golfers on the other hand strive to get their PGA Tour card and then compete amongst the best of the best within their sport. Since golf hasn’t been in the Olympics in over a 100 years, there is no mentality or dream to get an Olympic medal instilled within the players. They are more interested in making the Ryder Cup team or winning a major.

There is a different mentality within these separate sports, but does that mean that golf shouldn’t be in the Olympics? What about those golfers like Justin Rose and Bubba Watson, who ran at the chance to represent their countries on the largest scale? Do they get penalized because some of the top golfers would rather rest and prepare for the next PGA Tour event, than compete in the games?

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Another aspect that needs to be considered is the event base for each sport. Although golf may not be a “prime time” spot on television, it does have it’s own channel and millions of fans that go to tournaments around the world.

Golf is more heavily watched than that of the Olympic sport, gymnastics. Of course there are events and dedicated fans, but there is no broadcasted event for gymnastics like the Masters for golf. The Masters Sunday final round in 2015, had 14 million viewers tune in to see Jordan Spieth win the green jacket.

Source: jordanspiethgolf.com
Source: jordanspiethgolf.com

That’s a lot of people watching golf. Sure it’s the most well known event in the sport, but does that diminish the importance of the millions of people who turned on their tv? I don’t think so.

You might say then, “Golf doesn’t need the Olympics”, but it does. Golf needs to get rid of this niche aspect and start relating to the rest of the world. It needs to break the stigma of being an old white male sport and bring back the passion that Tiger Woods brought with him.

With that being said, we realize that golf may need the Olympic platform but do the players deserve a place among some of the greatest athletes in the world?

What it takes to be an Olympian:

Every sport is different, which means training varies for each individual athlete. Swimmers do laps in a pool, sprinters go to a track, and golfers practice at the range. What they all have in common is the time they put into their sport and the dedication to be the best.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in the world, could be his own country with the amount of medals he’s won. How does he do it?

According to Reference.com, his training schedule, as of 2012, is about six hours of swimming per day, six days a week. He also lifts weights for an hour and stretches for an hour three days per week.

Simone Biles, newly awarded 3x gold medalist, has a similar schedule. A 6 day training regime with vigorous training and focus.

Rory McIlroy didn’t compete in the Olympics this year but he revealed his workout routine to prepare for the Masters. McIlroy worked with Nike to show his rigorous schedule, revealing that golfers are athletes and should be recognized as so.

Rory’s Schedule
5:30 a.m Wake up — light breakfast
6:30 a.m Hit the gym; running and mobility training/stability exercises
7.30 a.m Eat larger breakfast with recovery drink
9:00 a.m Course/Practice
Noon Lunch
1.30 p.m Course/Practice
4.00 p.m Mid-afternoon snack
4.45 p.m Main workout
6.30 p.m Dinner
10:00 p.m
Bed

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It doesn’t say how long Rory trains this way, it could be anywhere from a month to a year. The Masters happens annually, where Phelps and Biles train the way they do for four years to prepare for the Olympics. Does that make Rory’s routine any less grueling? No. It’s just a different schedule for different circumstances, and that’s that.

Reflection:

Anyone who says that golfers aren’t athletes, is just ridiculous. Athletics shouldn’t be determined by strength alone, they should be determined by the dedication, heart, and performance of the athlete. If you think an athlete is only someone who can deadlift, then every athlete would be juicing up to compete with those standards.

Why does golf have such a low drug testing rate? Because these guys work hard for their spots on the PGA Tour and wouldn’t risk drug use to jeopardize their name. It’s the ethics and morals within the sport that are engrained in these players. If anything golf is more aligned with these Olympians (who don’t juice up) than with MLB players who feel the need to be better by any means.

Are we just comparing dick sizes here? Because if we are, I know a lot of golfers who would show off their shafts. I don’t think anyone can deny that golfers are indeed athletes and that they do deserve their spot on the podium. Hopefully after Tokyo 2020, golfers will no longer have to prove themselves worthy.

Golfers should be Olympians. As long as they are in the games, they will forever be Olympians. As long as fans show up like they did for Rio, golf will remain in the games. Golfers are Olympians.