April 3rd, 2014

The golf rejoins the Olympic Games 2016….

~~Two years from now, when golf rejoins the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904, records will be broken. There have been some notable improvements in technology over that span of 112 years, so it goes without much wonder that on the still unfinished course 15 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro, the world’s best players will set new Olympic marks in such categories as driving distance, total putting and, of course, scoring average.
One record, though, no matter how long golf remains a part of the Games and thrives in this role, will likely live on for eternity: Most creative gold medal presentation.
When George S. Lyon, a 46-year-old Canadian who didn’t take up the game until his late-30s, defeated H. Chandler Egan on the 34th hole of the match play final at Glen Echo Country Club the last time golf was contested, he was called to the podium to receive his award. A record-holder in the pole vault who also played baseball, cricket and tennis, Lyon was also known as a lovable jokester. He promptly stood up, then turned himself upside-down and walked on his hands to receive the golden prize.
It’s difficult to imagine Tiger Woods or Rory McIIroy replicating that feat in Brazil.
It is similarly difficult to imagine such a momentous upset. Egan was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, an astonishingly long hitter by that generation’s standards who had also won the pre-tournament long-drive contest. Comparatively, Lyon was a rube. He’d been playing golf for less than a decade, owned a bad case of chronic hay fever and worked his days as an insurance salesman.
In the final match, however, it was the sturdy Lyon from Canada who continually outdrove his younger competitor. When Egan hooked his tee shot on the challenging 16th hole into an adjacent lake, Lyon’s par was enough for a 3-and-2 victory, one that remains celebrated to this day with a plaque on that tee box.
It was the culmination of a busy week on Glen Echo’s grounds. The schedule included the aforementioned long drive competition, team events and even a contest on a lighted putting green. The main event, however, was the men’s tournament, despite some of the game’s top players failing to show.
The entries for the Olympic championship were rather disappointing, particularly so in those from the East.
The champion understood this sentiment and offered his usual humility. After accepting the gold medal upside-down, he would later tell the Toronto Star, “I am not foolish enough to think that I am the best player in the world, but I am satisfied that I am not the worst”.He didn’t do it for any kind of financial gain and he didn’t get any.
The oldest Olympic golf course Glen Echo is now home to 300 members and their guests tallying about 13,000 rounds per year on the course.That’s a big deal for them, there aren’t too many places where you can actually go and play on the facility where the Olympics were contested.
When golf is contested in the Olympics in 2016, it will be both geographically and chronologically far from George Lyon’s victory, far from the historic upset, far from Glen Echo. The first golf tournament in the Games in 112 years will take place more than 5,000 miles from the course, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a little Glen Echo in Rio de Janeiro.
Gil Hanse, the course designer charged with the task of producing a challenging venue in time for the Olympic competition, is open to – and even excited about – the prospect of somehow recognizing the last course on his newest site.
And maybe, just maybe, the winner of the Olympic golf tournament will choose to honor its longtime reigning champion in the same way. Perhaps someone will prevail at the four-round stroke-play event, then turn upside-down, walking to the medal stand on his hands in a show of respect toward the last winner Canadian George Lyon at Glen Echo.
Chances are, though, it won’t happen. George Lyon’s record, the one for most creative gold medal presentation, is likely one that will remain for a long, long time to come but who knows Tiger Woods may just do it.