At a time when we hear so often how important it is to “grow the game” of golf, it is disappointing when we find its naysayers coming from within the industry. It is especially embarrassing to have high profile PGA personas diminishing the game on the most significant global stage for athletes.
The 2016 Olympics have wrapped, but the conversation about golf being a part of the games lingers. The emphasis across the industry was one of enthusiasm and excitement about golf’s return to the games. It being so well covered and attended was icing on the golf cake.
While the LPGA embraced the Olympics and maximized the benefits of the opportunity, there were exceptions among the PGA whose comments left us…well…shaking our heads. The most ridiculous shadow was cast by golfers who minimized golf’s inclusion in the Olympics and, even worse, exhibited cluelessness and self-absorption about the state of other Olympic events.
One quote that took us aback came from Zach Johnson in a New York Post article, “I’d rather watch the sports that should be in the Olympics. I’d rather watch the athletes who train for four years for that one week. I’d rather watch swimming and diving, track and field — the athletes that are relevant for one week. All of our [golf] athletes are relevant 24/7, 365. I just don’t see the need for golf to be in the Olympics. Same thing with basketball. It’s relevant all the time. LeBron James, Kevin Durant? They’re relevant all the time.”
The other sports are only relevant for one week?
If we didn’t know golf better, we’d be inclined to ask it, “Who do you think you are?”
We Googled “Most popular sports in the world”. In the first three listings found, the highest that golf ranked was eighth. Track and Field ranked fifth, and don’t get us started on the beating golf gets in popularity when cricket, field hockey, and table tennis are in the mix. That’s right, Zach Johnson. Your relevancy is 350 million fans behind ping pong’s 850 million. What say you? #crickets
Golf had a lot to prove this Olympics.
To suggest that we don’t fit into the mix because our guys and gals are relevant 24/7, 365 doesn’t do us any favors when snobbery is oftentimes the barrier to entry in the game we’re looking to grow. The logic is also incredulous when you think of how grateful we should have been to be included in a lineup of events that includes soccer, track and field, cycling, equestrian, tennis, volleyball, and field hockey (which apparently has 2 billion plus fans).
The list of course goes on of Olympic sports that are relevant for more than just one week every four years. These athletes train and compete year-round on national and global stages. You are allowed to be unaware of the athletic schedules within other sports, but please do not be dismissive and declare yourself more relevant on a regular basis in the minds of sports fans. #yourerepresentingusall #dontbethatguy
We admit that we don’t think the only appeal to golf is its rank as a sport. Golf is also a lifestyle. Not everyone plays to compete or for the athleticism of it. Regardless, the reaction to being included in something as significant as the Olympics and alongside sports with greater followings should have been an emphatic, “Thank you!”
Overall, appreciation and excitement seemed to be the primary message delivered from the golf industry regarding its Olympic invite. In a time when golf still aspires to be appreciated globally in the way in which many other sports are currently followed, the Olympics was a win for golf. After all, being a sport that one can watch and play for a lifetime gives us a leg-up on the competition. And we have the 2016 Olympics to thank for getting golf further on its way.