First it was Vijay Singh. Then Adam Scott. Louis Oosthuizen followed, then fellow South African Charl Schwartzel. It is highly likely that more top players will withdraw from the Olympics before the tournament starts in Rio de Janeiro this August.
South Africa’s greatest ever golfer, Gary Player, is not at all pleased with what he’s witnessing.
“I am sad and disappointed that several top players have withdrawn from the Olympic Games in Rio,” says Player. “Not just South Africans. I would have given anything to play in the Olympics. South Africa had a great team, but now obviously, it will not be as good.”
The withdrawal of Oosthuizen and Schwarzel mean South Africa have lost the current world number 13 and world number 20. The top ranked South African, world number 11 Branden Grace, would be joined by Jaco Van Zyl, as things stand and assuming neither of them pull out.
“Players withdrawing hurt the game of golf,” adds 80-year-old Player. I was sorry to hear that Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have withdrawn their names from consideration. They have been playing outstanding golf lately. This certainly impacts South Africa’s chances to win a gold medal. No doubt they would have made our team even stronger. Our goal was and still is to win a gold medal in golf, and show the world that South Africa is one of the best golfing nations on the planet.”
Nine-time major winner Player believes that players owe it to the game of golf to play int he Olympics.
“Much of my life has been spent growing golf around the world, playing on every corner of the globe. Not just me, the Big Three travelled promoting the game everywhere – for not a lot of money. Players today make so much and should be giving back. The Olympics is one way they can do that, since there is no prize money.”
Player is still hopeful that golf’s inclusion in the Olympics will be a success and encourage more players to participate next time round.
“The Olympics will undoubtedly grow the game worldwide, no matter who plays and who doesn’t. All top players should think carefully about this. It is only once every four years! Many people fought tooth and nail for decades to get golf back in the Olympic Games, a true worldwide effort. Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world and our best players should be showcased on the biggest stage in sports. Luckily, we still have four more years to make sure the best players see this importance and commit to play in Tokyo.
I understand the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer. It is regrettable to see some leading players not participate in this summer’s Games. It is indeed a spectacular celebration of sport, and very exciting golf is back once again. It will be a time that no living golfer has ever experienced.”
Whoever ends up representing South Africa on the course, Player will be there to do his best off it.
“I will be there. Walking in the arena with the South African team during the Opening Ceremony will be incredible. I cannot wait to represent my country with pride!”