Golf preparing for pitch to Olympics
GENEVA — Golf makes its big play for a place on the Olympic program next week believing its lineup will deliver a persuasive case for inclusion.
Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie will join tour leaders from around the world to present golf’s pitch to the International Olympic Committee executive board on Monday.
United under the International Golf Federation flag, they will arrive at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with unofficial status as a front-runner among the seven sports aiming for two available program spots from 2016 onward.
“We feel good about the story that we have told,” IGF executive director Ty Votaw told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“But we don’t have any sense of where we are in the process. I don’t get too high with the positive rumors, I don’t get too low with the rumors that say we’re long shots.”
Monday’s presentations are a crucial step in the long-term lobbying campaigns waged by golf alongside baseball, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, softball and squash to join the 26 existing Summer Olympic sports.
The 15-member IOC executive will hear all seven proposals, then decide in August which two sports will be presented to the full membership for possible inclusion in an October poll.
Votaw believes golf has a “compelling” argument that it can deliver what the IOC is seeking.
“It’s the commercial appeal of our sport. It’s the celebrity of our top players. It’s the global reach,” he said in a telephone interview.
Votaw said the sport is played by 60 million people in 120 countries, and televised to 550 million homes in 230 countries.
“That would be a wonderful platform to promote golf’s participation in the Olympics and the Olympic ideals on a year-round basis,” he said
The presentation team will highlight a reputation for honesty and fair play that lines up with the movement’s values.
“If you play golf you play by the rules,” said Votaw, adding that 18 months of drug-testing programs on the major tours have shown the sport to be clean.
The IGF proposal calls for 72-hole stroke play tournaments for men and women, with 60 players in each field. Three-hole playoffs will decide the medal places.
The world’s top 15 players will gain automatic entry with remaining places filled by the highest-ranked players whose countries don’t already have two players in the field.
Retired legend Sorenstam and European Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie will lend the star quality in a six-strong bid team led by Votaw and Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient club at St. Andrews.
They are joined by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Hisako Higuchi, chairwoman of the Japan LPGA, who are among 19 major tours and amateur federations in 121 countries supporting the bid.
All have promised to adjust their tournament schedules to give Olympic golf exclusive status should it return to the Games for the first time since 1904.
“We believe that with this support golf is speaking with one voice,” Votaw said.
IOC members will vote at their annual session in Copenhagen, Denmark.