December 17, 2008

If You Don't Succeed At First...

With Jack and Annika becoming global ambassadors for the Int'l Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee, the sport has its best chance yet to join the Olympics

Hopefully, the combined weight of these two golf superstars will be the push the IOC needs.

Hopefully, the combined weight of these two golf superstars will be the push the IOC needs.

This time it may actually work. After a couple of botched bids to get golf back into the Olympics -- and 1904 is about as far away from being in the Games you can get -- the sport is mounting its most organized and most unified effort yet to get golf on the gold standard.

Another example of than came Thursday when Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam were introduced as global ambassadors for the International Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee. The inclusion of two of the best ever to play the game in the Olympic bid provides yet another reason to be hopeful this effort will bear fruit.

And while there are still those in the game who feel a sport with major championships and team events like the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup does not need another international competition, the leadership of the game is on board. Clearly, the International Olympic Committee wants assurances that the game will produce its top stars if it gets into the Games, and having Nicklaus and Sorenstam join the effort sends a very positive message to the IOC.

"No one is more passionate about the game than these two iconic figures," said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour executive vice president who is serving as executive director of the IGF Olympic golf committee. The IOC will vote next October on which two sports of seven candidates to add top the 2016 Games. An initial presention to the IOC earlier this fall was judged by all involved to have gone well.

"Golf's Olympic bid is enormously important to the game of golf," said Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club who serves as co-secretary of the IGF. "it will help the growth of the game. To have two of the greatest figures in the game join our bid as global ambassadors will give it a tremendous boost."

Those who support the Olympic bid say inclusion of the sport has the potential to be the single most-important grow-the-game program possible, expanding exposure of the sport and encouraging governments interested in the political gain that can be had by winning Olympic medals to fund junior programs. They also say part of the reason to be optimistic about the success of the bid this time s because the game has grown as a global sport with champion caliber players coming from all corners of the planet, such as Vijay Singh and Lorena Ochoa.

"I can't think of any other sport that belongs in the Olympics as much as golf," Sorenstam said. "It's a global game and some of the values we see in this game are hard to find in any other sport."

Nicklaus amplified on that theme, saying golf fits with the Olympic ideals of dignity and sportsmanship. He also said it would be hugely important for the future of the game. "The Olympics would be a catalyst to ignite golf's growth," he said. "For me it's, 'Hey, you are not done yet old man. You can still contribute to the game.'"

Asked if she would come out of retirement to compete in the 2016 Olympics, Sorenstam laughed and said it was too far way to consider, prompting Nicklaus to say: "How come you didn't ask me? I'll only be 76." Now that's an offer that just might get the attention of the IOC. Imagine the TV ratings for the return of Nicklaus and Sorenstam.