For those who follow Brasil 2016, it’s known that golf will return to the Olympic Games for two cycles at minimum. From my vantage point, it’s a dozen years late. The IOC might have taken advantage of all that Tiger Fever around 2000 and fast-tracked the games for Athens 2004. Didn’t happen, move along, nothing more to see.
Instead of fast-track, let’s fast-forward to 2015. Golf gets its test run at the Pan-Am Games, currently underway in the metro Toronto area. The Angus Glen golf club, a 36-hole facility in Markham (north of the city) is the venue. The glen is no stranger to big-time events; in 2002, its South course hosted the Canadian Open and in 2007, its North course took a turn at the tournament. This year, the South course returns as host for the IOC’s test run, in anticipation of next year’s Brasil games.
The tournament kicked off on Thursday, as 30 women and 32 men teed off in individual and mixed team events. For the ladies, LPGA professionals like Julieta Granada (Paraguay), Mariajo Uribe and Paola Moreno (Colombia) highlight the entries. For the men, Adilson da Silva (Brasil-European Tour) and Tommy Cocha (Argentina-PGA Tour Latinoamerica) are the featured professional competitors. The majority of the competitors has amateur status, lending a bit of a traditional quality to the games. In stark contrast, Brasil 2016 will see the best professionals in the world on the Olympic stage.
Day one saw a stellar, 7-under 65 from Argentine amateur Alejandro Tosti. Tosti is ranked 32nd/35th in two separate amateur golf rankings, making him one of the top 40, non-professional golfers in the world. Three strokes in arrears is Marcelo Rozo, a Colombian professional. In third is one of the older competitors in the games, 40-year old Felipe Aguilar of Chile, at 69. The two USA team members, Beau Hossler of UTexas and Lee McCoy of UGeorgia, posted rounds of 70.
Julieta Granada jumped slightly ahead of the field on Thursday with a four-under 68. She stands one slim stroke ahead of Mariajo Uribe and the USA’s Andrea Lee, a rising high school senior and UStanford commit. The other USA golfer, Kristen Gillman, sits a bit uncomfortably at 75, three-over par. Gillman is the 2014 USGA Amateur champion and a UAlabama commit.
The third competition is the mixed team event. The low female and male scores count for each country. The Colombian squad, led by Uribe’s 69 and Rozo’s 68, gave Andean nation a two-stroke lead at 137. Just a pair of strokes back are Argentina (Tosti’s 65 and Manuela Carbajo’s 74) and the USA (70 from Hossler and 69 from Lee.) In fourth are Ecuador and Peru, at 144. The tournament concludes on Sunday, after 72 holes have been completed.
The host country’s Brooke Henderson created a stir when she bailed on Team Canada three weeks out. I understand that Brooke is intent on securing an LPGA card for 2016, but her reason for opting out was to play in a Monday qualifier for this week’s Marathon Classic. Henderson missed a spot in the main event by one stroke, and Team Canada is left without its star attraction. Here’s hoping that Henderson takes the high road the next time and remembers the organization that supported her in her early-teen years.
So now I’m off to UDAC to secure my media credential, then over to the course to watch some golf. As I saw so often on the ride over, prochaine sortie. Take the next exit and enjoy the competition.