Day 10: Aussie Marcus Fraser’s Opening 63 makes Olympic Golf a Smash Hit!

20160811_075516It’s been a long time coming… 112 years for Olympic Golf to return to a world far different than when it was last played at Glen Echo CC in St. Louis. It struck me that the hickory-shafted golf clubs and gutta percha golf balls found in glass cases in the Golf Exhibit located at the entrance to the new Olympic Golf Course were in play when Canadian George Lyons won an Olympic Golf Gold Medal in 1904. With modern golf clubs, still somewhat ill-fitted to strike a golf ball, Australian Marcus Fraser’s 9-under par 63 was a smashing start to what undoubtedly will be a memorable Olympic competition, one of 42 sports  being played at this the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.

Here are my thoughts in no particular order from this historic day!

I planned to be there for the first tee shot and watch everyone of the 60 Olympic athletes tee off. What I didn’t plan was then to go over to the 18th green grandstand and watched everyone of those same 60 Olympic athletes putt out to complete their Olympic round of golf. The day went by quickly with the first tee time at 7:30 and the golf ending about eight hours later. I just stayed there mesmerized by the beauty of the 18th and the rhythmic sound of the mowers. By the time the sun set and I walked to the gates they were locked!

Not the use of Olympic athletes above. Golf is an Olympic Sport and by definition those who play it are athletes. I guess that logic includes badminton and table tennis too.

Beautiful morning, beautiful golf course, the Olympic Spirit of Golf reemerges from dormancy.

The sun came out in the northern skies not too far into the tee sheet and the golf balls driven southerly from the first tee were like white comets glistening in the sun as they at first resisted gravity to reach their peaks and then eventually fell to and bounced along, then rolled on the firm and fast fairway.

The realization that the sun is in the northern not southern skies like at home in the United States brought back a fond memory from a round of golf in Montevideo, Uruguay on the last day of 2013 while on the original “Journey to Olympic Golf.” I was trying to impress my diplomat lady golfer friend by pointing to what I thought was Buenos Aires across the Río de la Plata, which at its widest point is 140 miles across. She gracefully pointed out to me that I was not correct mainly because of my assumption that the sun is always in the northern skies. No matter that it was always what I had experienced in my life, it was still wrong. I am hoping all the Olympic Golf naysayers are a bit off in their Southern Hemisphere orientation too.

Amazingly, as I sat there at the first tee within the next few hours I received an email from my diplomat lady golfer friend who I had not been in contact since that remarkable round of golf we shared together at the Club de Golf del Uruguay.

When Canadian Graham DeLaet, playing in the first group, came around and finished playing the adjacent 9th hole he was 4-under par and led the tournament. Maybe he thinks he can defy the odds and have a Canadian repeat as the Olympic Golf Golf Medalist, many times removed in 112 years. Canadian George Lyons up in Golfing Heaven surely is smiling down on this links Sandbelter beauty of a golf course in the Barra de Tijuca, a swanky suburb of Rio de Janeiro.  DeLaet ended up shooting a 5-under par 67 and is tied with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, three strokes behind record pace setter Aussie Marcus Fraser.

The golf course literally came alive once that first group made the turn. Partly because Brazilians and partying visiting tourists and Olympic junkies began showing up at mid morning. Although the golf course is expertly designed to interweave the first and second nines to some degree, someone turned the switch and it seemed as though all of the sandy links were invaded by Olympic Golf patrons, spectators and what have you. One of my cutest kid moments was watching some kids playing leap from the base of flagpole to the next base of flagpole along the entrance way. It was funny and then even more funny to the other kids when one kid wiped out and crashed to the ground.

There are 60 competitors from 34 countries. Twenty-three countries have two golfers competing, ten countries have one golfer competing, and only one country has four golfers competing. Can you guess which country? The good old United States of America.

With double the odds, the American golf was half the performance with only Matt Kuchar (69) breaking par. He was joined in the American contingent (not team, no team competition) by Patrick Reed (72), Bubba Watson (73), and Rickie Fowler (75). This is a small field, 72-hole stroke play competition with no cut, thank God.

South African Olympic Captain Gary Player was on the first tee with his countryman Brandon Stone when he teed off at 8:52 am. The fit 80-year old Black Knight walked off the first tee and down the first fairway with the group. I presumed he walked the whole 18 or more between Stone and his RSA mate Jaco van Zyl two group behind. Some things don;t have to be said though surely Player will be witnessing the next four or more Olympics with or without golf.

I saw Bubba Watson tee off nine before I repositioned my self to the 18th green. He did not drive the green as I suspected he might.

I watched and videotaped (love being a GA spectator) all 20 groups tee off No. 1. The time went by fast as various nationalities came to the grandstand and left with their heroes.

I went to the “merchandise tent” and bought everything I could with the Olympic Golf logo (except the tie which I have no legitimate use for any longer) and spent all of $US 100. The shirt I was forced to buy (only one offered) could not be worn while playing golf at any country club back home (no collar) though I love it and it will remind me of this Olympic Golf experience for the rest of my life. Note to young entrepreneurs out there. Get the golf merchandising right to Tokyo 2020, market over the internet and make a fortune in the next five years.

I will treasure my Golfe Cup that my $R13 Reais beer came in. I buy one beer per event. Again, love having that GA spectator ticket. Love the Olympic Golfer logo on the cup too!

Good thing I did not wear shorts today. The weather was cool and very windy. I would say a consistent 25-30 mph starting around noon. I mean consistent too, little gusting, consistently battered by the wind all afternoon. Stenson’s 67 in the last group of the day may have been as good, if not better than Fraser’s 63 in the fourth group off in the early morning.

Highlight of the day was running into the Olympic Golf Course architect Gil Hanse and his family from home and his family from work. One big happy family! Still hoping for an invitation to play the Olympic Golf Course the week following the Olympics.

Looking forward to Round 2 of Rio 2016 Olympic Golf!