18 Questions With … Ty Votaw

The head of the IGF's Olympic Golf Committee details the format of play envisioned for 2016, when the events would take place, and the top players' views on golf's Olympic bid.

April 16, 2009

As part of the International Golf Federation's continuing efforts to demonstrate worldwide solidarity behind golf's bid to become an Olympic sport in 2016, 18 of the game's top players recently sent a customized brochure detailing the bid, along with a personal letter reflecting their support, to International Olympic Committee members from their respective countries .

The International Golf Federation made its formal bid last month for golf to become one of two new sports in the 2016 Olympic Games. That represented the second major step in a process that will culminate with a final vote on the matter by the International Olympic Committee in October. Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour executive who heads up the IGF's Olympic Golf Committee, recently outlined the progress his group has made and discussed what lies ahead with freelance writer John Steinbreder.

USGA: What is the status of the actual bid?

Votaw: The first step was the presentation we made in November to the IOC Programme Commission in Lausanne, Switzerland. Peter Dawson of the R&A and I addressed the 16-member commission for about 30 minutes, and then we had a 20-minute Q&A. We brought along the trophy won by George Lyon, a Canadian, the last time golf was an Olympic sport, in 1904. And we showed the group three different short films demonstrating top player support for the effort.

The second step in the process was to submit the formal bid, which we did on Feb. 15. The Programme Commission is currently reviewing that bid and is in the process of compiling a summary report that it is supposed to give to us within 45 days. We can then offer comments and clarifications.

What happens after that?

Votaw: We turn in those comments and clarifications to the Programme Commission, and it uses them as well as information on the other six sports vying to be selected for 2016 to create a series of reports, which it will send to the IOC Executive Board. We are scheduled to go back to Lausanne in June to make a presentation to that group. And they make their final decision on the matter in October, at an IOC session in Copenhagen.

What did the bid consist of?

Votaw: It was a detailed questionnaire with a total of 80 queries.

What did the IOC want to know?

Votaw: They were curious as to the competition format we would use. They wanted to know how golf appealed to the general public, to the youth of the world, to the media and television, and, of course, to sponsors. They asked us to lay out the cases for golf's inclusion in the Games in a variety of ways.

What is the format going to be?

Votaw: We are proposing 72-hole, individual stroke play for both men and women.


Votaw: In talking to the top players, they felt it presents the best and most equitable way to identify a champion.

How would the tournaments play out during the Games?

Votaw: Each competition would be over four days. We are looking at a situation in which the men play for four days during one of the weeks of the Olympics and the women four days in another week.

What time of year would those events take place?

Votaw: End of July or the first couple of weeks of August.

What sort of disruption would there be on the regular professional tour schedules?

Votaw: The IGF is committed to working around the schedule for the majors. Certainly, there will be some disruption, but we hope to keep that to a minimum.

How have the top players supported the bid?

Votaw: Very well. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are on those videos we presented to the Programme Commission, and so are Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Mike Weir and K.J. Choi. We have a very good cross-section from the men's and women's game, and it not only demonstrates broad-based support of the bid but also the universality of the game, which is important to the IOC.

How important is that support?

Votaw: Very important, as the IOC says that for a sport to be added to the Olympics, there has to be a guarantee that the top players in the world would play.

Does that mean that all the players, should golf make it into the Olympics, would be professionals?

Votaw: The fact is, the top players in the game clearly are the professional players, and our stance right now is that eligibility would come from the official world rankings. Our thinking at this point is that the top 15 men and women players on that list are in, no matter what country they come from. After that, a country may have no more than two players. We expect to have a field of 60 players for both men and women.

How many countries do you expect to be represented?

Votaw: Based on the current configurations of world rankings, 30 countries on the men's side would be represented, and 34 on the women's.

What is Tiger's view of the bid?

Votaw: He feels that golf would be good for the Olympics, and that the Olympics would be good for golf. The tricky part in all of this is no one knows for sure who the top players will be in 2016. After all, we are talking about seven years down the road. Will Tiger be there? Will Phil Mickelson, who will be 46 years old at that point? Vijay says he would love to represent Fiji. But he will be 53 in 2016.

Have you gotten any feedback from the IOC on your bid, and a sense of how it is being received?

Votaw: No polling data exists. We have no exit surveys. So, we really don't know.  But we feel we are doing the best we can with our bid, and we cannot worry too much about the competition. We cannot control our opponents, and if we shoot 62, and they shoot 61 to beat us, well, that's the way it is. We think we have made a very good case, and I believe the IOC has been impressed by our bid. But it is probably impressed by the others as well. [Editor's note: Karate, rugby sevens, roller sports and squash are vying with golf to be one of the two new sports selected, as are softball and baseball, both of which were dropped after Beijing and will not be part of the 2012 Games in London.]

Is there going to be any sort of cut among the seven sports angling for the two spots in 2016?

Votaw: During its meetings in Berlin in August, the IOC Executive Board will make a recommendation as to the two sports the IOC Session in October in Copenhagen will vote on. While it is better to be one of the two recommended sports, there is no assurance that the IOC membership will accept the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board.

Are there other things you are doing outside of these formal presentations to advance your goal of golf in the Olympics?

Votaw: We put together a marketing brochure that we are asking the top players in the game today to send to IOC members from their country. Annika Sorenstam and Jack Nicklaus have also agreed to be Global Ambassadors for our bid. And we are talking with IOC members when it is appropriate. We are not supposed to be entertaining IOC members. But if we are at places under IOC auspices, it is certainly fine to be talking to IOC members. And we are doing that.

What has been the level of support within the golf industry?

Votaw: There are 119 member countries represented in the IGF, and the seven members of the IGF Olympic Golf Committee are made up of representatives of the leading men's and women's tours as well as the four majors in men's golf. We have also formed the IGF Professional Golf Advisory Committee, which is made up of all the leading tours in the men's and women's games, the leading PGAs from around the world and other golf bodies like the International Golf Association. I don't know that there has ever been a situation or an issue in golf that has engendered as much support among top players and organizations in the game. We are very pleased with the level of support, and the level of resources provided.       

JohnSteinbrederis a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.usga.org.


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