History of Olympic Golf
Though golf has been around longer than the Olympics, it was not included in the first Olympic games in 1896, which were held in Athens, Greece. Greece had no golf courses to allow the sport to be added. However, it would soon become a part of this unique competition.
The second Olympics were held in Paris, France in 1900 with 24 countries sending a total of 997 competitors. Nineteen different sports were represented at this Olympics, with golf being one of them. Unlike today, the game included both men and women competing against each other.
Golf in the 1900 Olympics
Only four nations sent participants to the Olympics to compete in golf. These nations included Greece, France, Great Britain, and the United States. Three events were included in the golf portion of the Olympics. There was a 36-hole championship for men and an 18-hole handicap championship for men. Women’s championship consisted of a nine-hole game.
The World’s Fair was also going on in Paris at the time, which led to a great deal of disorganization. In fact, it was so disorganized that several of the competitors didn’t realize they were playing golf in the Olympics. Only three men competed for the US in golf, but one of them won the first gold medal in golf. His name was Charles Sands. A Great Britain player won silver with a second British player winning bronze.
The US brought four women to the Olympics to play golf. A mother and daughter were in Paris to allow the daughter to study art, and they decided to enter this international tournament. It is the only time that a mother and daughter competed in the same event in the Olympics. The daughter, Margaret Abbot, took gold with her mother placing seventh. She was the first female from the US to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
Another US golfer took gold in the 18-hole handicap championship. Albert Lambert, who was also in Paris and decided at the last minute to participate, took eighth place in the 36-hole championship. He also came home and helped his father-in-law to include golf in the 1904 Olympics which would be held in his hometown of St. Louis.
Golf After 1900
For the 1904 Olympics, the US had 74 golfers to Canada’s 3 – the only two countries to send any participants for golf. The US team was expected to take all medals. While they fared quite well, in the singles event, a Canadian named George Lyon took gold as they played on a chilly, rainy day.
For the next several Olympics, golf wasn’t included. The issue was that there was a lack of entries for the 1908 and 1920 games. In 1912, the games were held in Stockholm where golf wasn’t a big sport, so it was left out of the schedule.
Rules changed after the 1920 Olympics, requiring a sport to be played in 40 countries to be included. Golf wasn’t popular enough at that time to qualify. The sport wouldn’t be part of the Olympics until 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. With these games, 120 men and women participated with several countries represented, showing how golf has gained a loyal following all around the world.