What if Olympic golf teed off today?
Two major events mark the third Sunday in June: Father’s Day and the final round of golf’s U.S. Open.
Three years from now, many of those who will be in the U.S. Open field will also be looking ahead to making their Olympic debuts when golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904.
But, what if we turned the clock ahead?
If the Olympic tournament was happening right now, on this U.S. Open weekend, who would be in and who would be out?
Wearing the maple leaf would be Weyburn, Saskatchewan’s Graham Delaet (currently ranked 105th) and Brantford, Ontario’s David Hearn (currently ranked 193rd). Hearn is one of the five Canadians who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, his third time playing the major after missing the cut in 2005 and 2008. A pro since 2001, he has six career top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour. Delaet turned pro in 2006 and has recorded nine top-10 finishes since breaking onto the PGA Tour in 2010.
Both men would be looking to follow in the footsteps of George Lyon, the last Olympic golf champion who happened to hail from Toronto. The 46-year-old was the only Canadian to survive the qualifying round at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis. He advanced to the final after playing five straight days of 36 holes and defeated 19-year-old American Chandler Egan. Lyon celebrated his victory and showcased his stamina during the awards dinner by walking the length of the room on his hands. Lyons travelled to London in 1908 with plans to defend his Olympic title, but the chance was denied when golf was cancelled.
Despite having very little to do with each other in the more than 100 years since Olympic medals were awarded in golf, the Olympic Games and the U.S. Open have several similarities. The first U.S. Open was held in 1895, making it just one year older than the Olympic Games. The only times both events were cancelled were during World War I and World War II. And while it is being held this year at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Open has in the past taken place at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, as it was last year.
But Olympic golf in 1904 and Olympic golf in 2016 are two very different things.
Back then, the field was entirely amateur. In Rio, the world’s top professionals will be eligible to tee off.
Back then, the tournament was held in match play format. In Rio, it will be a 72-hole individual stroke play tournament. Back then, the field began with 75 men, including three Canadians. In Rio, only 60 golfers of each gender will qualify, but it appears likely that two of those men will be Canadian.
The Official World Golf Ranking will be used to determine the Olympic entries. The top-15 players will be qualified, with a limit of four players per country. Once outside of the top-15, there is a maximum of two players per country that do not already have two or more players among the top-15.