(ATR) International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson believes the sport’s status within the Olympic movement is safe after a thrilling men’s tournament that captivated players and fans alike.
Justin Rose and Peter Dawson on Monday in Rio (ATR)
The golf chief deemed the four-day men’s tournament – which saw the gold and silver medals decided on the 72nd hole on Sunday – a major success.
“We were always confident because for so many nations in the sport this was very important so we put our hearts into it,” Dawson said at a news conference on Monday in Rio. “It certainly was a successful four days leading up to Justin’s victory yesterday.”
Justin Rose of Great Britain won golf’s first gold medal in 112 years, outplaying Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in a dramatic finish.
“It was a very different atmosphere from a normal golf event with a very international crowd, not all of them accustomed to golf tournaments and a lot of patriotism out there,” Dawson said. “It was really good and wonderful on many, many levels.”
Perhaps the only real challenge facing organizers and players were unfamiliar fans using cellphones and cameras, taking pictures at inappropriate times. Frequently, golfers had to back off shots.
“Earlier in the week at the team leaders meeting, we did say watch out for this and this would be part of the issues we have to deal with,” Dawson explained. “It was quite rowdy and contributed to the atmosphere.”
IOC Presidents Impressed
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and honorary president Jacques Rogge, were present for Sunday’s final round at the Reserva de Marependi Olympic course.
Rose celebrates winning gold at 18th hole on Sunday (ATR)
“It was terrific that they all came to golf because they heard a lot about it and wanted to see the returning sport,” Dawson said about the IOC presidents. “They were all very complimentary, genuinely impressed by what they say and perhaps it exceeded their expectations.
“We’re certainly getting very positive feedback from every IOC member I met since yesterday,” Dawson said. “We’re not complacent, we have to play our role in the Olympic family and we will continue to do so,” the IGF chief said.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said: “I know that the president has an absolutely marvelous time and the sport’s crowd was fantastic - big crowds as well and very well-managed by the volunteers and Golf Federation.
“Fantastic sport and a great result as well.”
Growing the Game Globally
Crowd cheers after Rose's gold medal winning putt (ATR)
Golfers from 41 different countries took to the fairways and greens of the new Olympic course. Players who came to Rio said they couldn’t imagine having missed the opportunity, in reference to the 20 or so pros, including the world’s top four, who stayed home.
“These smaller countries that begged us to get golf into the Olympics were dead right,” Dawson said. “It is going to increase exposure in their countries, give more government recognition and funding to the game, which apart from expanding our competitive landscape is why we did this.”
“I’d be surprised if next time we don’t’ get a full turnout,” said the gold medalist Rose about Tokyo 2020.
Dawson pointed out that golf’s role in the Olympics beyond Tokyo 2020 will not necessarily be singled out at the IOC session in Lima 2017, but be part of a broader discussion regarding all sports moving forward.
The IGF leader said the format is a necessary conversation moving forward, however the traditional four round tournament will continue. A team event will be considered.
“I have no doubt at all the 72-hole, stroke play format is golf’s way of determining a champion and I’m sure that will continue at the Olympic Games,” Dawson said. “It’s a question of can we add to it, can we modify, not can we totally change it.”
Written by Brian Pinelli in Rio de Janeiro
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