Apr 17, 2020: Being an Olympian is almost every sports professional’s dream.
That long and winding route towards earning a priceless ticket to Tokyo needs dedication, perseverance and an incredible drive.
For the first time in the Games’ 124-year modern history, it has now been postponed.
But the silver lining is that it has given golfers more time for a shot at Olympic glory.
On current rankings, only Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Gunn Charoenkul, the Indian pair of Rashid Khan and Udayan Mane, Malaysia’s Gavin Green, Zimbabwean Scott Vincent together with Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines would represent the Asian Tour as members in the 60-men field in Tokyo.
Many have broadly endorsed the delay having considered the health risks and disruption to their training especially with many golf courses and practice facilities now closed all around the world.
Among them is India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia, who has enjoyed a monumental rise in the sport since he turned professional in 1997.
Apart from bagging six Asian Tour titles, the Indian also counts his debut at the 2016 Games as one of his career’s biggest highlights, having qualified as the second-highest ranked Indian player after Anirban Lahiri in 2016.
“My form was coming back, but I understand the postponement. I hope I can get my form to the highest levels when action returns and make it to Tokyo,” said Chawrasia, who finished tied-50th along with China’s Li Haotong and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.
Compatriot Shubhankar Sharma, the 2018 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, was third behind Khan and Mane before the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) was frozen.
He remains hopeful of rediscovering the form that led him to being crowned Asia’s number one golfer two years ago.
“For me personally, with the Games now postponed to 2021 or whenever, it is now an open race and anyone can make it.
“It is now a question of finding form and getting back to where I was two years ago. Well, that is very much possible whenever the season starts for us,” said Sharma.
With his Olympics dreams on hold, a matter-of-fact Rashid said, “This is not in our hands. Whenever the Games happen, I will be ready.”
The Olympic Games offers no prize money but the weight of the gold, silver or bronze medals will be far greater than the hundreds of thousands, if not millions earned by professional golfers.
Nationalistic pride ranks high as nothing beats standing on the winner’s podium, hearing their national anthem being played and sharing that excitement with their compatriots.
Philippines’ Miguel Tabuena will be the first to attest to that as he was the first Filipino golfer to represent his country in golf when the sport made its debut.
Although he settled for 53rd place, a far shot away from England’s gold medallist, Justin Rose, the 25-year-old still brims with pride each time he recalls that significant moment in Brazil.
“Nothing is bigger than the Olympics and I worked hard to realise my dream to be part of the Olympics and represent my country,” said Tabuena.
The Olympic flame, which has already been lit, will now remain in Tokyo as a beacon of hope for all.
And it will be a shining light that will eventually lead the world out of this tunnel as 15 months from now when the first tee shot is expected to be hit at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kasahata, Saitama, Japan