With all the skepticism that has accompanied golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, in particular with regard to the top players who elected not to be there, the tide of optimism surrounding golf at the Games that has emerged in recent days is refreshing.
Leave it to none other than Arnold Palmer to have started the ball rolling. In a statement released Monday, the 86-year-old legend expressed his excitement about the game’s impending Olympic renewal.
“As a kid growing up in Latrobe, Pa., I could dream about being an Olympian like Jesse Owens or Johnny Weissmuller,” Palmer observed. “I could also dream about being a great golfer like Bobby Jones or Byron Nelson. But the idea of being an Olympic golfer never occurred to me. The notion of golf in the Olympics – something that last happened a quarter-century before I was born – was completely alien.”
After stating his opinion that the Olympics figure to spur “incalculable” global interest in golf and citing the increase in the number of governments supporting the sport around the world that has occurred already as a result of golf’s Olympic inclusion, Palmer underscores just how special winning a medal will be.
“I don’t recall ever having the National Anthem played because of my performance. The winners at the Olympics step up, bursting with pride, because everything that they have worked for and all their dedication is rewarded in a climax that I, and most golfers, will never experience.”
The statement’s conclusion is quintessential Arnie.
“This is the game in full-bloom and living color with all the pomp and pageantry sport can muster. As of today a kid growing up in western Pennsylvania or eastern Portugal can dream of being an Olympic golfer. This is golf in the Olympics. And that, alone, is pure gold.”
Taking a cue from the King, the members of the American men’s team – Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed – have been nothing but positive since their arrival in Rio.
“To be able to call ourselves Olympians … wow,” Reed said at a Tuesday news conference.
Fowler marched in last Friday’s opening ceremony, has been making friends with other athletes in the Olympic Village and has been texting his PGA Tour homies about all the fun he’s having.
Kuchar called his Olympic berth “a boyhood dream.” And Watson joined his teammates in taking in some of the other events in Rio.
Here’s hoping the competition delivers more good feelings.