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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Olympics and Me

Despite dire predictions and a rough start, golf's return to the Olympic Games has been a glorious success!

I'm a 74-year old jock of mediocre talent. Yet even with these fundamental limitations, I love to compete - on the golf course, in the swimming pool, on a small sailboat, at the bowling alley. It's not in my makeup to play at anything just for the sake of playing. My genes are calibrated to competition.

Watching first the men and then the women who play golf at the highest level of competition make their return to the Olympic venue has sharpened my own competitive impulse and unleashed the flow of my competitive juices. There's no way around it. I love watching Charley Hull and Lydia Ko going head-to-head, battling the wind, the golf course, and each other in their quest for Olympic gold.

But I'm also enjoying Aditi Ashok's excellent performance and I'm applauding Maha Haddoui because, even though she's dead last in the Olympic field and very likely to finish in that position she's unleashing those same competitive juices that so energize me. I know how good it feels to compete. It's a pure, near-spiritual experience. Therein lies the bottom line for athletic performance and the essential core of the Olympic Games, ancient and modern.

Of course competition is about winning, but it's also about engaging, about the willingness to take risks, to measure self against other. What was all that grinning about as Usain Bolt pushed ahead of Andre De Grasse? What are all those hugs and high fives and fist bumps between competitors about when the contest has been decided?

Those naysayers who have denigrated golf's return to the Olympic venue just don't get this aspect of the game. K.M. McFarland just doesn't get it - golf didn't "land in the Olympic rough" as McFarland falsely claims, and it was never about providing an international showcase for Tiger Woods.

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth may have decided to take a pass on Rio but Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar didn't; and Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Brooke Henderson are on the golf course and engaged in a fierce battle for Olympic gold as I write. The following galleries for both the men's and women's Olympic golf competition have been large and enthusiastic and national television viewerships have exceeded expectations.

Peter Dawson knew what he was doing when he assured the IOC that the sport embodies and would embrace the Olympic spirit and the IGF has done a fine job of reopening the Olympic venue.  All-in-all, 2 weeks of Olympic golf have inspired, entertained, and taught me a few things.