Golf legend Gary Player is expressing his enthusiasm over golf’s return to the Olympics in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro and sadness over the number of pros withdrawing from the games.
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“Isn’t it exciting that golf is in the Olympic Games?,” Player, captain of South Africa’s Olympic Golf Team asked the FOX Business Network’s Stuart Varney.
But Player’s excitement was tempered by news of professional golfers from various countries deciding to withdraw.
“I’m just sorry to see so many pros withdrawing and I have respect for everybody’s opinion, but I just hope, in a nutshell, that the IOC will not withdraw us from the Olympics in the future,” said Player.
Player discussed some of the prominent players choosing to not take part in the games in Rio and the impact on the South African team in particular.
Vijay Singh [Fiji], Adam Scott on the Australian team, Louis Oosthuizen [South Africa], a prominent player, Charl Schwartzel [South Africa], a prominent player. We could definitely win gold medals, which would be such a big thing for South Africa,” said Player.
Player weighed in on some of the potential factors behind those players’ decision.
“They have their own reasons which I’m not really in a position to talk about. Traveling schedules, families, they have their particular reasons,” Player said.
But Player held out hope that these withdrawals would not impact the future of golf at the 2020 Olympics in Japan or beyond.
“But the fact remains is I just hope the IOC rather than kick us out sort of speak, golf, of the future Olympics in Japan that they will consider if the pros do this, to put in amateurs who will appreciate it. Take Phelps, this is his fourth Olympics unless I’m mistaken. He’s trained for 16 years. If you take all of the sportsmen or sportswomen who train diligently to get into the Olympic Games to get that gold medal, I would have given anything as a young man to participate in the Olympics. It’s just an honor for me to walk in that arena being a captain,” said Player.
On whether money was a factor in the pros’ decision to withdraw Player would not comment, but he did discuss how much the sport gives back to the community.
“Golf is the greatest catalyst at raising money for charities. We as a small company have raised $60 million,” Player continued, “and we will get to $100 million before I hang it up.”
Player talked about the educational programs his foundation is supporting in countries around the world.
“It’s called the Gary Player Foundation. We are promoting education in all the respective countries: Abu Dhabi, China, India, Japan, America, South Africa. Those particular countries where we raise the money goes into various programs, but our theme is education,” Player said.