Not for the first time, the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games have gone boldly into new territory, with an exciting format that has proven to be a real hit with the athletes and the crowds alike.
The proceedings opened with the fourballs, in which each player on the two-person team plays his or her own ball with the best score on each hole counting.
That was followed by foursomes – a format in which players share a ball taking alternate shots – before a final 18 holes of individual strokeplay with both players’ scores combining.
“I would happily play more of this. It is not often you get to play with a boy, it has been very fun,” said Strom. For Denmark’s team coach Peter Thomsen (DEN), the rarely-used foursomes threw up something particularly special: “The best nine holes of golf I have ever seen.”
It was John Paul Pultz Pinnerup Axelsen (DEN) and Emily Kristine Pedersen (DEN) who blew their coach’s mind with an opening nine holes of seven under par. It was a quite extraordinary feat in a format that is considered golf’s most difficult.
“We just flowed. I enjoyed it so much – I suppose you always do when you play that good,” said Pultz Pinnerup Axelsen.
“We saw this as an opportunity to try something different – the three different formats combining together, Ryder Cup-style.” said Antony Scanlon, President of the International Golf Federation.
As the most widely-followed golf tournament in the world, the Ryder Cup is a pretty good benchmark. And a proud Scanlon thinks the Youth Games format even has components that the great biennial competition does not.
“The Ryder Cup is between two teams. Here we were able to put together 30 teams. And it created the drama and theatre that you get with team events,” said Scanlon.
Such team events are all too rare in professional golf. “I think golf misses the team thing. What makes football so interesting is the team aspect. Competitions like this will put golf more as the people’s game,” said Thomsen.
Even rarer is a mixed gender event, something players and coaches at Zhongshan International Golf Club lamented.
“In India we used to allow the girls to play with the boys at a junior level, which I think was very beneficial. It allowed the girls especially to develop their games further,” said India’s national coach Jasjit Singh.
Gold medal winner Strom was unequivocal in her view of how the game should evolve. “I would love the pro tour to have events like this. It would be a dream.”
The fact that the women’s individual gold medallist, Lee Soyoung of Republic of Korea combined with Youm Eun Ho to claim silver ahead of the men’s individual gold medallist Renato Paratore of Italy and his partner Virginia Elena Carta (ITA) showed that the format was not only fun but was also ensured that the best golfers finished on the podium. That was a fitting endorsement for a highly successful new format.