Here is part of an interview that took place ahead of the Bridgestone Invitational where the vice president of the International Golf Federation, Ty Votaw, talks Olympic golf with three players from the PGA Tour.
TY VOTAW: Thank you, Chris. Good morning, everybody. Thank you for being here. We are one year out from the Opening Ceremony in Rio, in 2016, as of today, August the 5th. It’s been a long path for golf’s return to the Olympic games. 111 years, if you want to go back to 1904, when it was last played and won by a Canadian by the name of George Lyon. That’s the trophy he won in 1904 that’s on display here from our friends in the Canada Golf Museum. It’s been eight years since we started the process of getting golf back into the Olympics, started in April of 2008, culminated in a vote by the IOC in 2009, in Copenhagen. And we have been spending the last since 2009 working with Rio 2016, the International Golf Federation working with Rio 2016 on all number of things to get golf back in the Olympics in a smooth and a good transition. The most activity has been centered around the building of a golf course in Rio, and we’re pleased to report that it had a very good first growing season for that golf course, and we are looking forward to having a test event in the first quarter of 2016 with some top players on both the men’s and the women’s side of the game. We’re excited about the golf course. We’re excited about our entry back into the Olympic games because we think golf is good for the Olympics, and we think the Olympics will be a great stage for the top players on both the men’s and women’s side of the game to compete and bring new eyeballs to our sport from around the world. If the Olympics were held today, there would be approximately 35 countries represented on the men’s side, 34 countries represented on the women’s side. Interestingly enough, of the 60 players on the men’s side who would qualify as of today, 30 of those players are in the field this week at the Bridgestone Invitational. It would be 31 if Rory wasn’t injured. So with that, I know you want to hear from the players. Matt Kuchar has had some experience with the Colorado Springs training facility, going out there and working with the USOC. It’s safe to say – and, Ben, you can perhaps reference this in your remarks – if it weren’t for the Olympics, you wouldn’t be here today.
BYEONG-HUN AN: Yes.
TY VOTAW: And Henrik is involved with us on the International Golf Federation’s Athlete Committee, which we appreciate very much, getting the input from Henrik. So with that, I’ll turn it over to Matt, Ben and Henrik to say a few words.
MATT KUCHAR: I think everybody’s thrilled, excited that golf is back as part of the Olympics. I know myself, as a fan of sports, as a kid that’s grown up watching every sort of sport you could imagine, the Olympics is something that I think every kid dreams about doing at one stage. Awfully exciting now that golf is actually part of the Olympics again, that my sport has a chance, that I have a chance to compete in the Olympics. I think that’s one of those things that you dream about, that you only wish you could be part of. Now it is possible. So I think I’m excited. I think most guys are very excited. I know we were in Canada two weeks ago for the Canadian Open. The Pan Am Games were going on, and I actually went and watched handball. I thought just something cool to see, see a unique, different sport. I’m a fan of sport. I wanted to go see something different, see some fun games. So it was fun for me to be in Toronto during the Pan Am Games, just knowing that there’s some excitement, there’s some build-up for the Olympics coming around. I think we’re all very excited about it.
BYEONG-HUN AN: Yeah, I agree. It’s going to be really fun and exciting. It’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It’s held once every four years, and it will be great to play in the Olympics next year because my parents played in it already. After I heard the announcement that golf will be involved in the Olympics, then I was like, okay, then let’s try to make the Korean team. It’s great to represent a country to play a sports event and compete with others. I’m really looking forward to next year. It’s going to be exciting and fun.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I can’t brag the same way that my whole family would compete in the Olympics (laughter), but if I can make it there, which I guess I’m in a good position as of now, yeah, it would be really exciting, like Matt says. I think, as a sports fan in general and growing up watching both the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics, I guess Sweden has been probably more successful in the Winter Olympics due to our climate. So, yeah, to compete there and then hopefully have a chance to win a medal for Sweden would be something very special. I think it’s going to be something very special for the player who wins the gold medal to be the first one to win the gold medal when golf is back in the Olympics. It’s going to be a very strong achievement and something you will certainly be remembered for for the rest of your life. So very much looking forward to it. I think it’s been good for the game of golf worldwide. We’ve seen a lot more support in some emerging markets around the world for golf. With it being an Olympic sport, that really makes a difference in a lot of places. So that’s been good. Yeah, one year to go. Can’t wait to get there.