Sergio García: “It is a big honour to represent Spain at the Olympics and I want to live that experience fully.”
José Mari Olazábal: “The Olympic games will be a historic turning point for golf.
Manuel Piñero: “Seve is our real Captain and we will carry his image on our equipment.”
San Roque (Cádiz), Monday April 18, 2016
The return of Golf to the Olympic Games has been marked today at La Reserva de Sotogrande with a meeting called by Manuel Piñero, Captain of the Spanish men’s team and Marc Topiol CEO of Sotogrande. They were joined by George O’Grady, President of International Relations of the European Tour, José María Olazábal, Sergio García, José María Cañizares as well as the captains of the teams of Belgium, Philippe Relecom; Portugal, Joao Coutinho; Italy, Gianlua Crespi and Denmark, Claus Moelholm.
All have highlighted the “crucial “importance of Olympic Golf. “It will be a historic turning point that will enable us to reach new generations of golfers and countries which are unthinkable right now”, said Olazábal. Much has been said today about the bright future of golf in the wake of the Olympics without forgetting that it owes its inclusion to the silent and relentless work of both the players and the institutions during the past decades. Special mention was made of Severiano Ballesteros, “who did more than anyone else for European Golf,” said Piñero. The Spanish team will carry Seve’s image on their equipment, “we want to make it very clear that we are there representing him,” he added.
Manuel Piñero, Capitain of the Spanish Olympic men’s team: “We are here today at La Reserva de Sotogrande at the initiative of Marc Topiol, CEO of Sotogrande, to celebrate the return of Golf to the Olympics after a 112-year wait. For all of us that love golf it’s a thrill to be in the games and it is bound to be a big boost for our sport. We have to thank all the institutions that have worked so hard all this years for Olimpic Golf, all the Federations, the European Tour and the players. First and foremost, those who decided to join forces and create the European Tour in 1972, such as John Jacobs and Ken Schofield, as well as leading figures like Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo or Bernhard Langer amongst many others. In Spain we must never forget the likes of the Miguel brothers, Ángel and Sebastián or Ramón Sota and, of course, Severiano Ballesteros, who did more than anyone else for European golf.
“Seve is the real Captain, for his spirit and for his understanding of golf. Sergio and I agree that we will carry his image on our uniform, as we want to make it clear that we are there representing him.
“As well as Seve, we have Olazábal with us, his eternal friend and team partner. I am here replacing the replacement, and I told José María that I will step back and hand him the captaincy should his health improve in the next few months. I also want to thank Sergio García, who represents the new generation of golfers that are raising our sport to increasingly higher levels.
“I have told the players to prepare for the Olympics the same as they would for a Major – they know what to do. From the opening ceremony on August 5th to the start of golf on the 11th, we will have plenty of time to study the course. I know that the players have to carry their sponsors’ marks but I would like them to wear the same colours, and, as I said, Seve will be present on their equipment.”
José María Olazábal: “It has been a long journey, and we must remember those who started it. I belong to a middle generation. I arrived after a group of professionals that dared to compete abroad and paved the way for me. I am talking about Manuel Piñero, José María Cañizares, Pepín Rivero, Joan Anglada, Manuel Calero… We must also thank younger players such as Tiger Woods or Sergio García, the current standard-bearer of Spanish golf, for inspiring the new golfers.
“Olympic golf will be a crucial turning point that will enable us to reach new generations of golfers and countries that are unthinkable right now. We will reap the results in 15 or 20 years time. When you hear top sportsmen like Rafa Nadal or Pau Gasol say that the Olympics are a unique experience, you get a sense of the extent of the Olympic spirit.
“When I declined my captaincy I did it irrevocably. It was a hard decision to take because it was such a special occasion to celebrate Olympic Golf with my with friends, the likes of Sergio García, Pablo Larrazábal, Alejandro Cañizares, Rafa Cabrera-Bello or Miguel Ángel Jiménez, but I will not change my mind”.
Sergio García, member of the Spanish Olympic team: “I couldn’t be prouder of representing my country and become an athlete besides a golfer. The players that preceded me never had this opportunity and I wish to thank all those that made it possible.
“My father taught me that besides playing well and trying to win tournaments, I must try to leave a little something to make things better. When I retire, I hope to have given my small contribution to golf.
“I don’t know the feeling of actually being in the Games, but I am a big fan and I follow them on TV. I very much look forward to the experience of living at the Olympic Village. These might be my last games, so I want to live them fully. The opening ceremony and actually meeting the athletes that I admire on TV will be awesome.
“I believe the format is correct. I am a big lover of match play, but at the Olympics we might have very different levels, and nobody wants to win or lose by 9&8. Moreover, in match play some top players could be eliminated in the first round and that would be detrimental to the show”.
George O’Grady, President of International Relations of the European Tour: “It is very important that this conference is taking place today here at La Reserva de Sotogrande, because the crucial meeting for Golf to go into the Olympic Games took place during the Ryder Cup at Valderrama in 1997 with Juan Antonio Samaranch, Ken Schofield, Commissioner Tim Finchem from the PGA Tour and myself, with the presence of the European Captain Severiano Ballesteros.
“At that time, all urged Ken Schofield and myself to get Golf into the Olympics, led by Emma Villacieros, who was President of the Spanish Golf Federation at the time. But Mr. Samaranch said: ‘If Golf is going into the Olympics it must have the best professionals in the world to lead and inspire all the other countries’. From that meeting the world’s leading administrators came together.
“At the test event in Rio over 150 writers TV stations and broadcasters came, which has never happened at a golf tournament anywhere in Latin America before. The chairman of the Rio IOC and the Mayor of Rio were astounded on the impetus of golf and golf’s capacity to inspire and bring forces for good. It will be now the example sport at the Olympic Games of how things should be done.
“But it couldn’t be done without all the administrators of the world and all the top players coming together. It is very difficult for the tours to schedule dates. Nothing will compete with Major Championships immediately, but one go every four years for players like this will come through.
“I thank this great man who is the Spanish Captain to inspire everybody to come and I thank all the people who write about the game for joining us today”.