Team Golf > Individual Golf

Last weekend, I won my club championship. It was an honor. It was validating. It was exciting. It had drama. It felt empty?

A week before, I competed in a Member-Guest at my friend’s home club. We grinded, ended up in a winner-take-all match to win our flight and lipped out a putt on the last green that would’ve clinched the points needed for victory. For two middle-aged men clinging to the limited moments of competition, it was gut wrenching. Eight days later, I got my own individual glory. It didn’t come close to filling the void.

While I sought redemption individually, the best women golfers in the world were putting on, arguably, one of the best shows of golf all year. The International Crown was sensational. It featured the best performance in a losing role (Mel Reid’s 1-on-2 near miss against Japan), tremendous action and a USA victory that felt cathartic for a country needing a confidence boost to its roster. In a golfing summer where every golf schedule is crammed with tournaments, the LPGA provided something different, yet awesome: Team Golf.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we can be a part of a team that it’s the top four golfers for your country,” Gerina Piller said afterwards. “To be one of those four is pretty special for me, and obviously always playing for your country is just — just gives me chills to think about.”

Watching Team USA win, coupled with my inability to find full satisfaction in an individual triumph brought me back to the Olympics. Golf will have a seat at the biggest sports table in the world in two weeks. Will anybody care?

The defection of the game’s best male players has cast a dark shadow over the future of the sport at the games, and the viability of the competition in Rio. I contend that the fears of crime, mosquitos and bacteria have merit in small doses, but are a mere smokescreen to the larger issue: players don’t see the value and aren’t inspired to play. You can’t blame them. I only wonder if a true team format could fix it.

Outside of the four major championships in golf, the overwhelming favorite event for fans to watch is the Ryder Cup. For me, the most exciting golf I ever witnessed outside of a major was the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships. What do both have in common? Team.

Playing for one’s self is good theatre. Relying on one’s self for the result of a team is a psychological thriller. My hope is that we see more aspects of team golf, perhaps even in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I think the Olympics are bigger than any golf tournament on the planet,” Stacy Lewis recently said. “It’s bigger than the Masters. It’s bigger than the U.S. Open. It’s bigger than the Women’s Open. It’s the biggest thing out there, and I want to be a part of that. I want to be around the other athletes and see what makes them great and go cheer on the other U.S. Olympic athletes.”

It may not be bigger, but it could be. Give them partners. Give them something even greater to play for. Watch how much fun that becomes.

 

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