Over the past few months there has been a fair amount of negativity regarding the inclusion of Golf in this quadrennial event. I would hope that Sunday’s exciting men’s final round perhaps gave some people cause to re-evaluate their opinion.
Whilst I have understood some of the views those who felt that golf didn’t deserve, or possibly need the spot in the Olympics there is no doubt that when the announcement of it’s inclusion was made in 2009, I dreamt that I might get the somehow I might get the chance to become an olympian.
It has been interesting to hear the views of the men who took up the chance to play, and to hear the words of Gold Medal winner Justin Rose. They all spoke positively and enthusiastically of the whole experience, and will certainly never have experienced the likes of the Olympic village, and opening ceremony Golf is a lonely and solitary sport, and rarely does camaraderie come into play – the Ryder and Presidents Cups being rare exceptions.
Perhaps it is worth pointing out that Justin Rose will have not won any prize money by winning the first prize. He was delighted purely by winning the Olympic gold, and to me that defines the ethos of the Olympics. It has been said to me that the golfers earn many millions, but I would hazard a guess that so do the likes of Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt. Tennis for many years was viewed in the same way that golf appears to be now, but again the Gold and silver medal winners Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro had a epic final match last night, and displayed all the olympic spirit that Baron Pierre de Coubertin envisaged when he founded the Modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Women’s professional golf sadly is not as healthy as the men’s game, and the inclusion of Women’s golf in the Olympic movement is of huge importance to our side of the sport. The coverage and exposure to a whole new audience should have a real positive impact. Contrary to popular opinion, few women are making a significant living from the sport – perhaps the women’s game has a lot more in common with the majority of other sports that are in the games, than with it’s male counterpart.
Lizzie Armistead the British Cyclist has divided opinion recently, since it became public that she had missed 3 random drug tests, but had managed to overturn the suspension on a number of grounds. I did sympathise with her when she said that she was not part of a team, and did not have the back up team and support that the men have, and it was tough to keep on top and all her travel, logistics and training. Her circumstances are similar to a lot of women on the golf tour. Unlike the men, women have to travel on their own, sort their own accommodation and flights, and for the majority with limited budgets. More often that not they don’t even have a caddy to carry their bag.
The reason for the disparity between the two genders is simple, there is far less money in the women’s game. The sponsorship which contributes to the prize money for tournaments, let alone players is nowhere near the levels for the mens game. This will not change, and understandably so until the game receives more coverage and exposure on TV, and in the Press. The Olympics could change this.
Golf is not the only sport where funding and prize money fall far below the men’s level, and equally it is not the only sport where women receive far less coverage that men. Football has been muted as one of the many reasons. The majority of sports journalists for the newspapers, including the broadsheets are dedicated to football, and this leaves very few available to cover other sports, meaning women’s golf is down the pecking order.
I hope that the inclusion of women’s golf in the Olympic Games does mean the support for the great game will strengthen, and in turn mean that playing professional golf for women in the future becomes a more viable option. Many of my contemporaries on the tour have also reluctantly decided to quit the game, as the sacrifice and solitary lifestyle just doesn’t weigh up in the end. Many of these women, are incredibly talented, gifted and hardworking, and it’s often a real shame that they decide this career is no longer for them.
Some girls leave the sport completely, and opt for a different way of life, whilst others maintain some connection to the sport that they love, and they have such a vast knowledge of. This can be from teaching at the local golf club, to joining the administrative ranks, or developing a travel and holiday companies like my own, but if they were asked if they would like to play in the Olympics Games in 4 years time, I am sure they would answer positively. So should golf be in the Olympics beyond Tokyo? YES