There’s a feeling of disappointment, but also a healthy dash of understanding.
The presumptive members of the Canadian Olympic golf team were in unison in supporting the move of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) on Sunday to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, if they go ahead as scheduled on July 24, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[The COC is] taking the best interests of health and safety of the athletes over medals,” said Adam Hadwin. “That’s what’s important right now.”
“It's obviously disappointing for all the athletes,” added Corey Conners, “but it's the right decision. It would be tough to go under the current conditions. “
Although not finalized, Hadwin and Conners were in position on the Official World Golf Ranking to be named as the men’s team for the Games. The women’s squad was to be made up of Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp, both of whom represented Canada in 2016 in Rio. Both teams were to be finalized in mid-June.
“At first I was a little bit shocked,” said Sharp. “And I was definitely crushed. But after 10 or 15 minutes of thinking, I was so proud to be a Canadian and have us take a stand and open the eyes of the IOC.”
While saddened by the announcement, Hadwin was more sympathetic for the athletes from disciplines where the Olympics represent their pinnacle.
Golfers play all year and are paid well, he pointed out, but for some Olympians, it’s their lone opportunity for glory.
“I hate to think of these athletes who have been training for this moment and that they might just have one chance,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going through their minds. So many of them work at part-time jobs just to afford to compete. I don’t think anyone is crying for us [golfers].”
“I get to play golf all year,” added Sharp. “For a lot of them, the Olympics is their major.”
That doesn’t mean the golfers haven’t been dreaming of playing for Canada at the Games. Every Canadian on the PGA and LPGA tours has made it a goal to get to the Olympics. Now no one is quite sure just when the Games will be held, which brings up the matter of how the team would be selected if there is a postponement.
“Being able to call yourself an Olympian is something special,” Conners said. “Hopefully this is a postponement and I’ll just keep working hard over the next year to get there.”
When the team is finalized, it will be done by Golf Canada, the national sport organization for the game as well as its governing body. It issued a statement Monday offering its support for the COC’s decision.
“Golf Canada is fully aligned with the position of the Canadian Olympic Committee and will continue to work with our Olympic sport partners to ensure that the health and safety of athletes is the number one priority,” read the statement.
Golf re-joined the Olympic family in 2016 after a 112-year absence. The threat of the Zika virus kept many of the top players in golf away from that competition. This time, while players such as Dustin Johnson opted out and Brooks Koepka was considering not playing, most of the game’s top stars were lined up to compete.
Even Tiger Woods has talked about his desire to play for a gold medal in Tokyo.
Just exactly when that happens remains to be determined.