The Olympic Golf Course is the first step in popularising the sport of golf in Brazil
Golf course created to host Rio 2016™ golf competitions to be completely open to the public after Rio 2016™ Games
Cristian Barcelos started to play at a social project in Japeri and made history in the Brazilian sport in 2012 (Photo: Zeca Resendes/CBG)[/caption]
A new chapter in the history of Brazilian golf is being written. The sport’s return to the Olympic Games and the consequent construction of the Olympic Golf Course at the Marapendi Reserve site promise to be a watershed in the sport, not just for Rio de Janeiro but for Brazil as a whole.
To understand golf’s evolution in this football-focused country, the Rio 2016™ website team talked with two outstanding athletes in the sport. The first is Cristian Barcelos who learned how to play golf at the age of 12 in a social project in the municipality of Japeri, where he lives. In 2012, Cristian became the first Brazilian youth champion to have learned to play on a public golf course.
“I got into it through friends. I live in Japeri, where there is a social project with a public golf course, where local residents play. Children leave the streets to play golf. I was 12 and I learned very quickly. At the start it was just a bit of fun, but I began to stand out and things became serious. At 17, I won the Brazilian Youth Championships and some other titles. I then had the opportunity to play in the most important tournament of my life, the Web.com Tour (a qualifying event for the PGA Tour)”, said Cristian, referring to the Brasil Classic.
Golf changed the promising athlete’s life, especially at school. “Before I was kind of rebellious – I would yell at my parents, for example. These days I see things differently. I know I have my limits, I respect people. I never imagined I would be a golf player, I didn’t even know what the sport was, and now I don’t know what my life would be like without golf,” he said.
The other outstanding golfer is São Paulo-born Alexandre Rocha, the second Brazilian to compete in the PGA Tour, after Jaime Gonzalez, who played in the elite global golf championship until 1982. Alexandre took up golf at the age of five, influenced by his parents and grandparents, all former golf players. Alexandre believes the sport will become more popular in Brazil through the creation of public golf courses.
“All golf courses in the country are part of private clubs, which makes it very expensive to join them and play the sport. It’s great that Rio’s Olympic Golf Course will be public, it’s an example to be followed,” said Alexandre.
“It was a huge thrill to find out that the Olympic Games are coming to Brazil and that my sport will be back in the Games. Since the announcement of golf’s return, taking part in the competition in 2016 has been the priority in my career. Golf is an individual sport and so it doesn’t provide us with many opportunities to represent our country. Playing in the Rio Games won’t just be a dream come true but also a tremendous honour,” he said.
Cristian is also full of praise for the opening of the Olympic Golf Course to anyone to play the sport after the Games take place. “It’s a great initiative for the growth of golf in Brazil. It’s a sport that can be a little expensive and not everyone has the opportunity to play on a high-level course, like the one built in Rio. Just like I had the opportunity to achieve all this starting on a public course, more people will be able to experience this,” he said.
Cristian is one of the first students to learn golf on the first public course in Brazil, in Japeri, a municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Developed using donations and sponsorship, the course was opened in 2005. It has nine holes and is just 50 minutes from Rio’s city centre. The pioneering initiative also includes a project of great social appeal: a junior golf school for children aged 7 to 17 who live in Japeri and Engenheiro Pedreira. Completely free, the classes include etiquette and behaviour, environmental awareness and supplementary school lessons, as well as sports practice.
Article by Rio 2016™