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‘Olympics boycotts should open windows for interested players’

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 Rebecca Artis and Minjee Lee of Australia walk down the first fairway with their caddies during the four-ball session of the 2016 UL International Crown at the Merit Club, Chicago, Illinois…yesterday. PHOTO: AFP.

Rebecca Artis and Minjee Lee of Australia walk down the first fairway with their caddies during the four-ball session of the 2016 UL International Crown at the Merit Club, Chicago, Illinois…yesterday. PHOTO: AFP.

Gary Player slams absentees

The boycott of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by the world’s top players may open the doors for Africans and other less ranked countries to participate in golf event of future games. This is even as the International Cricket Council (ICC) has warned that the top gofers’ boycott of the event may compel IOC not to admit cricket to the games.

The Olympic-­­ tournaments in Rio will include 60 women and 60 men competing over 72 holes of stroke play. The men’s event will run August 11 to 14, while the women’s is August 17 to 20.As at last count, over 15 top players have withdrawn from the games, with some hinging their action on the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil.

The International Golf Federation’s (IGF) ranking is the only criteria used to admit players to the competition, a condition that made it impossible for most countries to field players in Rio.

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Recently, the IOC reallocated unused places slots to players eager to take up the tickets, which the boycotts threw up. But a group of players from Asia are clamouring for continental qualifiers to be used to admit players to the games in the future. That means that each continent should be allowed to conduct its own qualifiers, even if it means giving Europe and the Americas more slots at the games.

Speaking on his eagerness to play in the Olympic Games, Lee Kim Song told a Korean website that IGF Should ensure a level-playing field for every country at the games to avoid making the golf event the prerogative of a certain class of players.He said, “it will be appropriate for every golfer to go through the qualifiers so that only players interested in the competition are given the slots to participate.

“No player who is not interested in playing at the Olympics will take the pains to go through the qualifiers. That will also give the continents the sense of belonging currently lacking in the event,” he said.

Recently-crowned Open champion Henrik Stenson and Masters title holder Danny Willett are on the list of 120 men and women confirmed by the IGF for the sport’s return to the Olympic Games next month.

Highlights in the women’s tournament include world no.1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Brooke Henderson, winner of the PGA Championship, who will fly the flag of Canada.With 41 countries representing all five continents included in the start lists for the men’s and women’s competitions, the first Olympic golf competition for 112 years will illustrate the sport’s growing global popularity, and highlight what the IGF has called the ‘Olympic effect’.

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Meanwhile, South Africa’s Gary Player had some harsh words to say about golfers who have withdrawn from the Olympics. The nine-time major champion and captain of the South African golf team says he would have given anything to play in the Olympics.

“[With] my 18 Majors and 165 tournaments – [If I could have] had an Olympic Gold Medal amongst them, it would have been the joy of my life. I would have given anything. I would have taken a rowing boat and rowed over to play in the Olympics. And this excuse about Zika is feeble. You have Zika in America in some states right now. You’ve got more of a chance of being killed by a gun or a motorcar in America than getting Zika.”

“We all worked hard to get golf in the Olympics. I think professional golf should be kicked out of the Olympics…They should replace us with amateurs who would hold it at high esteem to represent this country with great joy.”


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