Like the Olympics, the Presidents Cup Is Now About Growth of the Game
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The Presidents Cup fulfills a mission that often goes overlooked. Whether you believe, as some do, that it was created after Greg Norman lobbied for a Ryder Cup-like event for non-Europeans, or that it was created for some other reason, it has grown significantly in the last 20 years. It is now broadcast to 225 countries, which has influence we may not see for some time.
As golfers know, the sport originated in Scotland and then migrated to—in some order—England, Ireland, Wales and eventually the rest of Europe and the U.S. and a few other parts of the world. We can thank the British Empire for expanding golf around the globe.
Just like New Yorkers brought bagel shops to South Florida, the English carried golf with them to their territories in the days when it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. That included, at the very least, Australia, New Zealand, great chunks of the southern and eastern continent of Africa, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, numerous islands and, of course, Canada.
The Philippine Open, for instance, which is regarded as the oldest Asian professional tournament, began 100 years ago in 1913. But Sri Lanka has an amateur event that is in its 126th season. They say golf has been played in their country for 130 years. That predates the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
However, in many locations in the rest of the world, particularly the non-former British Empire nations, golf is newer. There’s plenty of room to grow. How much? The 2012 Olympics included 204 countries and territories. By comparison, in 2012, the PGA Tour had 82 players from just 20 countries.
The Presidents Cup, though, like the Olympics, is important because of the vision that it gives young golfers from non-European countries. It gives them another goal.
On television, they see 21-year-old Japanese player, Hideki Matsuyama, representing the International team this time or Brendon de Jonge from Zimbabwe, who are just two of the myriad of international golfers who have represented a variety of countries in the last 20 years, and say, "one day, maybe that could be me."
With the event viewed in so many locations abroad, there is certain to be continued interest in the sport that we won’t even know about this year or next. It may even be a decade or more if today’s golfers are any guide.
Ernie Els and Nick Price, from different countries in Africa, have talked in the past about how, as youngsters, they watched The Masters on television. Sometimes it was in the middle of the night or tape delayed, but they watched and yearned for a time when perhaps they would be good enough to walk the fairways of Augusta National.
Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, and before them, Greg Norman, had similar recollections. It was the broadcast that made it possible for them to dream the dream.
And when people dream, they learn they can perform.
Michael Campbell of New Zealand made history when he won the U.S. Open following in the footsteps of the 1960s and 1970s New Zealand legend Bob Charles. Campbell was in two Presidents Cups.
Stephen Ames, who turns 50 next year, was the first touring professional to represent Trinidad and Tobago. There have been South American players from Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay. There have been others from Mexico. More are surely on the way.
Every season, it seems, another country joins the community of touring professional golfers on the PGA Tour. That means, over time, The Presidents Cup, with representatives from even more countries in decades to come, will continue to reach out not just to a golf audience, but to the future of the sport.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report.
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