Legend of the game Gary Player believes golf's return at the Rio Olympic is exactly what the sport needs right now.
Golf return to the the Olympic Games for the first time in 112 years and Player is full of excitement, even at the age of 80. The nine-time major winner believes golf will benefit greatly from being on the world stage.
"There are potentially 3.5 billion people out there watching," Player told europeantour.com.
"There is a reason why it is the biggest sporting event in the world and if ever golf needed a shot in the arm it's right now. Henrik Stenson certainly provided that at Royal Troon a few weeks ago when he won The Open. What a boost that was, and to know we have The Open champion playing in Rio, and the Masters champion also. Let’s talk about that rather than who might be absent.
"The Olympics will undoubtedly grow the game worldwide, no matter who plays and who doesn't. So many eyes will see golf on television, when they couldn't before. Golf needs to be an Olympic sport because of its global allure and I would appeal to the IOC to treat us leniently in terms of golf's future participation. As Winston Churchill said: 'The youth of today are the trustees of prosperity'…"
Player will be in Rio to lead the South African golf team that consists of Jaco Van Zyl, Brandon Stone, Ashleigh Simon and Paula Reto.
While the likes of Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will not be in Rio, Van Zyl took a different path, opting to skip the Open Championship and PGA Championship in order to focus on preparation for the Olympics. This impressed Player…
"I thought he came out with some powerful statements," said the veteran of van Zyl.
"He is the epitome of a professional golfer and I look forward to working with Jaco and the others in our South African team in Brazil. In my role, I hope to be able to help them in any way, either with their swing, or any problems which might arise, but basically to be there to encourage them as their captain to play well."
A total of 60 men and 60 women will compete on the Olympic Golf Course in a 72 hole stroke play tournament next week.