Three years from now, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will welcome golf back into the Olympic programme after an absence of more than a century. With the construction of the Rio course having recently kicked off, now is a good time to take a look at how the sport has evolved over the last decades.
Golf has already featured twice in the official programme - in 1900 in Paris (France) and in 1904 in St Louis (USA).
The 1900 Paris Olympic Games golf competition was held at the Compiègne Course. From 2 to 9 October, 109 men and women – 28 French nationals, and 81 foreign athletes – competed in four events. Olympic history records Charles Sands and Margaret Abbott, both from the USA, as the winners of their respective 36-hole stroke-play individual events for men and women. As such they became the first Olympic gold medallists in golf. However, for their success they were not presented with medals, but were awarded a gold plate.
The Glen Echo Golf Club hosted the 1904 St Louis Olympic Games golf competition. Unfortunately, due to a lack of entries, there were no events for women. Seventy-seven male athletes from Canada, USA and Great Britain competed in a number of events including a 36-hole stroke-play team event, individual match-play event, driving contest and putting contest at night under the lights. The winner of the individual match-play event, Canadian George Lyon is widely regarded as the last Olympic golf champion.
Since its last appearance at the Olympic Games, the popularity of golf has grown immensely. The number of worldwide participants at the time was in the tens of thousands. Now the sport is truly universal - played on five continents by more than 60 million men and women of all ages. The universality of golf will be reflected by the number of countries that athletes will represent when golf makes its return at the Rio2016 Olympic Games. Golf will also be on the programme of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
To find out more about golf’s return to the Olympic Games, visit the International Golf Federation (IGF)’s website: www.igfgolf.org