Next month, the top 60 individual men and women golfers from all over the world are scheduled to compete for Olympic medals in Brazil.
The Hanse Golf Course Design Company, in conjunction with LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, have designed and built a brand new course, The Olympic Golf Course at Reserva de Marapendi.
And as golf’s reach internationally continues to grow, the world golf community is ready for the sport’s first Olympic competition since 1904.
There’s only one problem — some of the top golfers in the world won’t be there.
With the Zika virus a clear threat in the region, many of the world’s top golfers — Jason Day, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Brendan Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, and Graeme McDowell to name a few — have decided to withdraw from the event.
Although unfortunate for the region, I have to throw out a suggestion that I’m sure has already been presented to the decision making bodies — move the golf competition and get the best players to compete.
With anything new, I believe this first go-round will play a huge role in Olympic golf’s future success. Golfers today compete on a weekly basis and for millions of dollars.
And while the Olympics are the clear “major competition” for swimmers and track and field stars, today’s professional golfers already have four annual majors to compete in.
And with the Ryder Cup and now Presidents Cup meaning as much as they do, playing for “one’s country” also is annually available.
So as exciting as golf in the Olympics might be for the fans, if the top players in the world don’t play in the 2016 games, I can see the sport as a whole struggle to gain momentum for 2020 and beyond.
Unlike many of the Olympic competitors (in different sports) who only travel every so often for competitions, today’s professional golfers literally travel on a weekly basis. Moving the entire Olympic games obviously can’t happen.
But changing the schedules of only 60 men and 60 women, who are used to traveling weekly wouldn’t be difficult.
The Olympic Games present a massive infrastructure challenge to any host country. Billions of dollars have to be spent over decades to build the stadiums necessary to host the world’s top athletes.
Not so for golf. Top clubs in the U.S. strive to be in perfect shape this time of year. I’m quite certain a number of courses could be “championship ready” with only a month’s notice.
I know this is a huge reach, but my suggestion: Pine Valley.
Located in southeast Pennsylvania, Pine Valley is annually ranked one of the top three courses in the world. Securing tee times, and the course itself, are legendary for being difficult. And the club’s mystique is possibly only matched by Augusta National.
Logistically, I admit it would be impossible to organize tickets, grandstands, volunteers, leaderboards, etc., to host a tournament with live crowds.
But in my opinion, getting to watch the world’s top players on arguably the world’s top course with no crowds or grandstands would be an unforgettable experience.
I know this suggestion isn’t ideal. I know the International Olympic Committee would never plan something like this from the start.
And I’m sure there would be a number of unknown hurdles to overcome.
But similar to what our country’s top political pundits keep saying: this decision needs to come down to choosing the best option available.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.