How can Olympic golf rise to the level of other Olympic sports?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Xander Schauffele won the Gold medal in Men’s Olympic golf on Sunday. He’s been a factor in just about every major for the past five years but hasn’t managed to win one. Is the Gold medal as good or better?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It may not be as good or better to him or his Tour colleagues, but it is to me.  I’m delighted that the Olympics includes golf, and I think winning a gold medal is a very significant achievement in any sport.  Congratulations Xander, and here’s hoping you win a different major some day.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The golf for Xander does represent something of for all his hard work and close calls recently. He’ll use this to build on and create some additional momentum for the playoffs and heading into next year. The gold medal is helpful, it’s almost as good as winning any other event, but not quite a major.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: To a golfer nothing surpasses the majors followed by success at the Ryder Cup. Gold will only take on value if Schauffele regards it highly as Justin Rose did.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s perhaps a more cherished accomplishment since it’s tough to even get into the tournament as an American, especially since it only happens every four years.  As a result, there are less chances to win, but as a tournament itself, it’s not nearly as hard to win as a major since so many top players in the world aren’t there.  Of course, that’s the first big one that Xander wins because it’s the first time in about two years that I haven’t picked him to win a big event!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s no where near as good, but good practice at finishing the deal. He might be able to draw on that feeling on the 72nd hole next time he’s in the hunt in a meaningful event.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s a great step for Schauffele and a huge confidence booster. As time goes on, his Gold medal will be recognized as even more of an accomplishment by others and himself. It’s very special.

The competitive format, the strength of field and even whether to participate or not have been hot topics leading to Tokyo. After completion of the Men’s competition, what’s your take on Olympic golf?

Deeks: I’m disappointed with the format, to be honest.  They could’ve been much more creative, and could’ve/should’ve included a team competition.  For that matter a MIXED team competition would have been great, too.

Loughry: Overall I thought the men’s Olympic Golf was compelling. 61 was some score by the other Rory, I didn’t think it would be good enough for a medal though. The seven-way playoff for bronze was pretty cool.

Schurman: Don’t forget the most important factor in Olympic sports……money. Golf generates more money into the Olympic coffers than any other competition. I enjoy watching golf as an Olympic sport, but I’d rather see the ladies and men form a team and play series of elimination matches.

Rule: It doesn’t get my juices flowing.  I get that the playoff for the bronze was pretty awesome, but honestly it doesn’t interest me as much as the majors do.  But turn it into a team event, and we’ll see.

Quinn: My take hasn’t changed; the Games don’t need golf and golf doesn’t need the Games.

Mumford: Olympic golf should not be judged against the PGA Tour. They’re not the same and never should be. I thought the Men’s competition did everything it was supposed to do and gave us an added bonus with a thrilling finish and that seven-way playoff for bronze. Golf deserves a spot in the Olympics.

How can Olympic golf become as important to players and fans as the Olympics are to other sports?

Deeks: Tough question, especially when you can’t (and shouldn’t ever) award money for victory.  Maybe if the gold medal winners could talk up the value of their experience, it might eventually add some lustre.  But I’m not sure it’s that far down the prestige list even now.

Loughry: Olympic Golf is just going to take time for it to register for everyone. And maybe it doesn’t entirely. I’m still not sure how USA Basketball feels about it. Players still pass on it, and don’t seem to take it too seriously, not so the fans exactly.

Schurman: One of two things; first, time. It took the Masters at least 25 years to become a major. Second, it can’t. The other sports have a season/year-long schedule of competitions that attract little if any interest. Golf has an annual schedule that provides its own appeal all of which would have to disappear and be replaced by one big event every four years. I like the Olympics but primarily it consists of sports I would never watch at other times.

Rule: It never will be.  For some other sports, the only true spotlight that shines on them is during the Olympics, so they have a very small window to make a name for themselves and lock down as many sponsor dollars as they can. For professional golfers, they are often in the limelight so the Olympics just doesn’t mean as much to them, and never will.

Quinn: It can’t, and no amount of BS from the TV networks or players shilling for the sponsors — if you think they’re playing for anything other than self, check Sabbatini’s new passport and Rory saying he’s not the least bit patriotic — will change that self-evident fact.

Mumford: Those of us that live in the golf bubble (fans, players and media) forget sometimes that there is a much larger part of the world population that doesn’t care who wins pro golf’s majors and maybe doesn’t even know. Yet that same group knows about the Olympics because their country is participating in some way. The Olympics are much bigger than golf. People who follow the Olympics recognize the achievements of participants and revere medal winners. Eventually, that same recognition will penetrate the golf bubble and Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele will be recognized as much for their Gold medals as their majors. It will take time.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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