Golf in the Olympic Games
Two meetings – staged almost a century apart – have each played significant roles in establishing golf’s Olympic credentials.
It was on May 27, 1899, that the Organising Committee for the 1900 Games included golf in the list of sports to be featured on the programme for the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900.
Fast forward 90 years to October 9, 2009, in Copenhagen. At the 121st IOC session in the beautiful Danish city, golf was finally reinstated to the Summer Olympics, initially for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020.
The inaugural golf tournament in 1900 was won by Charles Sands of the USA with scores of 82 and 85. The silver medal went to Great Britain’s Walter Rutherford with another British golfer, David Robertson, collecting the bronze.
This was the first Olympic Games that included women and the only time prior to 2016 in which women’s golf was featured. Margaret Abbott from the USA was visiting Paris with her mother and both entered a nine-hole golf event that they believed to be the Ladies’ Championship of Paris.
Margaret Abbot, an American born in Calcutta, scored 47 and her mother came in seventh. It wasn’t until after Margaret’s death in 1955, aged 78, that it came to light that she was, in fact, the USA’s first female Olympic champion.
A new golf course, Glen Echo, was built for the 1904 Olympics in St Louis, Missouri. A 20-year-old American, H. Chandler Egan, a Harvard student and the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, was a warm favourite to claim the gold medal. After qualifying for the match-play stages, Egan met Canadian George Lyon in the 36-hole final but lost 3 and 2 in difficult conditions.
Lyon, who did not take up the game until the age of 38 but managed to win eight Canadian Amateur Championships, travelled to London for the 1908 Olympic Games, but a disagreement over the format meant that there were no competitors from the UK and the event was promptly cancelled.
Lyon, as the sole competitor, was offered a second gold medal but declined. Golf was not included in future Olympic Games, but 112 years after St. Louis, it returned in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.
Similarly, to the 1904 Olympics, a new course was built for the 2016 Olympic Games. Construction of the course was laden with challenges, but come 07.30am on Thursday, August 11, 2016, the Gil Hanse designed course was ready and welcomed the first tee shot of Brazilian, Adilson da Silva and golf’s return to the Olympic Games.
This brought to an end the long reign of Lyon and Abbot as sole Olympic Champions of golf and heralded the new reign of Britain, Justin Rose and Korean, Inbee Park.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not until 2021 that Olympic Golf shone again on the Olympic stage in Tokyo 2020. Despite the postponement of the Games, the Olympic Golf Competition did not fail to excite and engage audiences right to the end with a seven-way playoff for the men’s bronze medal and a playoff for silver and bronze in the women’s event. The Olympic Champions Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda, both representing the United States of America, won the men’s and women’s events, a feat the USA accomplished once before in 1900.