The first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, had 14 nations represented with 43 events. However, it wasn't until the 1900 Paris Olympics, where 28 nations were represented, that golf was listed as one of the 75 events. The men played two rounds (36 holes) to decide the medals, and women played a 9-hole tournament. Pictured above are the small number of American men who made the cross-Atlantic trip to the 1900 Games.
Despite only having three U.S. representatives in golf at the 1900 Paris Games, it was American Charles Sands (left) who took home the gold. Sands also took part in the tennis competition that year and returned to the 1908 Olympics in London as a participant in the jeu de paume (court tennis, the precursor to modern tennis) tournament, where he did not place for a medal.
The 1900 Olympic Games -- as in 1896 and 1908 -- were rather unsuccessful at drawing competitors from around the world, and often accepted on-site applications. This was the case with Albert Bond Lambert, who was on business in Paris when he entered the Summer Olympics golf event. Lambert would go on to place eighth, but played a much larger role in history as the primary financial supporter of Charles Lindbergh's 1927 Trans-Atlantic flight (incidentally, to Paris). Pictured left with Lindbergh, Lambert was also influential in bringing the Olympics to St. Louis in 1904. The international airport in St Louis is named after Lambert.
The first American woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal, in any sport, was Margaret Abbott (left), who took home the gold with a 47 over nine holes.
Abbott, like Albert Lambert, was simply visiting Paris when she entered the 1900 Olympics with her mother, novelist Mary Ives Abbott. As Peter Dobereiner wrote in Golf Digest, both (pictured above) were under the assumption they were participating in the Ladies Amateur Championship of Paris, and Abbott went to the grave unaware she was actually an Olympic gold medalist. Her mother finished in seventh place.
Due to the lack of success at the 1900 Games, Olympic representatives decided to hold the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis at the same time as the Louisiana Purchase World's Fair Expo in an effort to draw more international attention. The golf event was switched to match play format. It was the last time golf would officially appear in the Olympics until the upcoming 2016 Rio Games, when -- like in 1900 -- it will be a stroke-play tournament.
The 1904 Olympics featured a total of 77 golfers; 74 Americans and three Canadians. It also featured a ridiculously-few-by-today's-standards three officials (above). In what was considered a huge upset, 46-year-old Canadian George Lyon beat U.S. Amateur champ H. Chandler Egan.
Some interesting and random facts about the last Olympic golf champion George Lyon (left): One of Canada's greatest athletes, he had never picked up a golf club until he was 38-years-old (when he "grew too old" for the likes of cricket, rugby, baseball and tennis), and in 1876 he set the Canadian record in Pole Vaulting. For winning the Olympic tournament in 1904, Lyon was presented with a sterling silver trophy, which he accepted after walking down the path to the ceremony on his hands. Lyon would go on to win the Canadian Amateur five more times after his Olympic victory, including in 1914 when he was 55-years-old. Rumor has it Lyon was able to shoot his age for 18 holes from 64 to 78-years-old (he died at the age of 79).
The 1904 Olympics also included a men's team tournament to replace the women's individual. Being that teams of 10 were needed, only America was represented, with the Western Golf Association team -- anchored by H. Chandler Egan (pictured) and his cousin Walter Egan -- taking home the gold.
In 1908, the London Games were once again planning on hosting golf as one of it's events, but a dispute over eligibility between The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the British Olympic Council resulted in all of the local golfers withdrawing. George Lyon -- who came to London in defense of his title as the only representative outside of England -- was the only entrant. He was offered the gold medal by default, but he refused to accept it.
Golf was again attempted at the 1920 games in Antwerp, but scrapped due to lack of interest. The following year, the Olympic committee formalized the provisions that a sport must be played in at least 40 countries and have an international governing body to be considered for the Olympics. Golf, with two separate ruling bodies, was deemed ineligible. Photographed above is the American Olympic team on their trip across the Atlantic.
In conjunction with the 1936 Games, a doubles tournament was held in Berlin with the winner receiving the Hitler Trophy (above). As the story goes, Adolph Hitler himself was to present the trophy in person if a German pair won. A German duo held a firm lead with one round to go, which prompted Count von Ribbentrop, foreign minister of the Third Reich, to notify Hitler he could begin his journey from Berlin for the awards ceremony. When he arrived, an embarrassed von Ribbentrop had the delicate task of telling him how the British pair of Tony Thirsk and Arnold Bentley had broken the course record and went on to win the tournament. Hitler turned straight back around, leaving the president of the German Golf Federation to present the trophy.
At the 121st International Olympic Committee session in Copenhagen in 2009, golf was selected to return as an Olympic sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and again in 2020. After an absence of more than a century, the sport will be represented in Olympic competition by the world's elite, who helped present the case for golf in the Olympics with a video that was shownto the IOC.