Olympic leaders ponder course options
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ty Votaw wears a lot of hats as the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of international affairs and communications. During a brief conversation outside the Tour’s media center at TPC Sawgrass, I gleaned a brief update on his special project, golf’s return to the Olympics.
Votaw, who helped orchestrate golf’s Olympic bid as executive director of the IGF Olympic Golf Committee, explained that it is still too early to tell how golf’s inclusion in the Olympics is affecting how resources are allocated to the game. But he did offer some anecdotal evidence to suggest that golf’s governing bodies in respective countries are assimilating into their nations' Olympic movement.
In November, Votaw toured the Ministry of Sport in Beijing with Zhang Xiaoning, executive director of the China Golf Association. Votaw’s eyes widened, and he spread his arms to express the vastness of the weight room facility. When they walked inside, Xiaoning said, “Now that golf is an Olympic sport, elite golfers can train here. Before they could not.”
Still to be determined is what golf course will host golf’s return to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero. Will it be an existing course or will a new one be built?
Several observers have assumed a new course will need to be built, but a decision hasn’t been made.
“I love how people say there are no acceptable courses in Rio,” David Fay, the USGA’s executive director and IGF secretary, told The Met Golfer in 2009.
Votaw said Rio’s Itanhanga Golf Club, a 27-hole private course founded in 1933, is the most qualified to serve as host among Brazil’s existing courses. A committee of leaders from the IOC, the host city and the IGF are looking at property and could authorize the construction of a new course.
“The reality is that from the time JFK said he was going to put a man on the moon until the time (Neil) Armstrong walked on the moon’s surface was (about the same) time as the vote to get golf in the Olympics and when it’s going to be played in 2016,” Fay said. “I mean, it’s one course. Give me a break. This is not, pun not intended, rocket science.”
Votaw said the timeline to identify a course is approaching “pretty quickly.”
When asked to clarify how he defined “pretty quickly,” Votaw said: “We have to identify our plan in the next year. We have to have a direction well before next year’s Players Championship.”