How Olympic golf nearly came to Augusta National
While names like Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and ‘the Final Five’ have stolen our hearts early on in the summer Olympics, another sport will grab our attention over the coming days: Golf.
For the first time in 112 years, golf is on the Olympic docket, and while most of the focus has been on who won’t be playing (Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson to name a few) and the giant rodents scurrying around the course, the attention will turn to the actual event itself over the coming days, as guys like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson actually take the course.
But while Rio marks the return of golf to the Olympics, as we learned on Fox Sports’ ‘The Club House’ podcast with Shane Bacon earlier this week, it actually almost returned to the Olympics back in 1996 in Atlanta.
And get this: Augusta National almost played host to the first Olympic golf event.
That’s according to Bacon’s guest, former Executive Director of the PGA David Fay.
“It really started with what then became the International Golf Federation. In 1990, in a meeting in New Zealand, deciding we need to go to the IOC, and become the recognized international federation for golf. You have all these check marks you need to get on the Olympic program.”
From there, Fay continued, explaining how, for a brief time, the political big-wigs in Atlanta came together, to try and make it happen. And if it had, Augusta National would have served as the home base, for its return.
“You know, we almost got in 1996, when the games were in Atlanta. Billy Payne was the head of the Atlanta organizing committee, and he had a great relationship with Jack Stephens, the late czar of Augusta National.
Billy at that time, by the way, wasn’t a member at Augusta. He just wanted to get golf on the program, Jack Stephens amazingly, he wanted to see golf on the program. He had this vision of players from the Ivory Coast and [other countries coming in], and it would would’ve been a big deal because, as you know, Augusta National is closed in the summer.”
Of course it never happened, unfortunately, with Fay noting that ‘politics sort of seeped in.’ And it would a full 19 years before the sport was actually approved, and another 20 before it will actually be played in an Olympics.