Gold Medalist, Pro Golfers Talk Olympic Golf at Opening Major

(ATR) Female golfers are focused on the season’s first Major tournament but will shift focus to Olympic tournament in Rio in just a few months.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 21:  Construction continues at the golf course in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood with nearly one year to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on July 21, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 21: Construction continues at the golf course in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood with nearly one year to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on July 21, 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(ATR) Female golfers are focused on the season’s first Major tournament, which opens today in California, but in just over four months that focus will shift entirely to the Olympic tournament in Rio.

Pro golfers Sandra Gal of Germany and Shanshan Feng of China were joined by five-time Olympic swimming medalist Missy Franklin and International Golf Federation (IGF) executive director Antony Scanlon at a news conference prior to the LPGA Tour Ana Inspiration in Palm Springs, California.

Franklin, one of the stars of the London 2012 Games, said the inclusion of women's golf into the Olympic Games could inspire a new generation in the sport.

"It’s amazing what being in an Olympics can do and I think it will help golf reach so many more people, which is really the main goal of the Olympics: to inspire and reach out," said the 20-year-old U.S. swimmer, who will compete at her second Games in Rio. "For golf to be there, it’s going to be amazing for the new generation to see golf in a way they’ve never seen it before.

"It’s going to be so special for all these athletes, for all the hard work they’ve put in, to be able to show it on a stage like the Olympics."

Gal, 30, and Feng, 27, who both compete on the U.S. LPGA Tour, said they were excited, a bit lucky, and somewhat nervous to compete in Rio this August.

Even though it's still five months away, I’m already starting to feel a little nerves now," Feng said. "I'm also really excited to meet all the other athletes like Missy. "We only see golfers like each other, but now maybe I'll get a chance to first see maybe the male golfers like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, and then I can see the other athletes."

"We're lucky to be in this position to experience the Olympic games for golf where it's going to feel like it's going to be the first time," Gal said. "I know it was on in 1900, but no one remembers that anymore. So, yeah, just nerves definitely a little bit, and also I think that excitement of experiencing such a huge world class event."

Olympic downhill skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn did not attend the press conference, but was in Palm Springs to speak at the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference.

"I think the Olympics showcase any sport and to finally have golf in the Olympics again is going to be incredible, especially for women’s golf," Vonn said. "Men’s golf is so popular everywhere but women’s golf has a lot more room to grow and I think the Olympics will be an amazing platform for that. I’m excited to see how it goes and I think the athletes are extremely excited."

Alcott, a 29-time LPGA tournament winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member, assisted Gil Hanse with the design of the new Reserva da Marapendi course in Rio.

"It's been a labor of love to build this golf course in a country, really, that doesn't know much about golf," Alcott said.

"We had a beautiful piece of land and I think we've built something that's very challenging for all levels of golfers, and really will be left in perpetuity for a generation of young Brazilians to learn about the game and play the game."

Sixty women will tee it up at the Olympic Golf Course in Barra da Tijuca for a four-round, stroke-play tournament, August 17-20.

Scanlon Discusses Golf’s Challenges and Excitement

Scanlon addressed dealing with some of the painstaking challenges in the lead-up to golf’s return to the Olympic Games – delays with construction of the course and venue, the Zika virus and the financial crisis that Brazil’s economy is mired in.

"The challenge that the Rio Organizing Committee has is delivering a games now in an economy that's in recession, and the international federations and the IOC are working with them to overcome that challenge and [to ensure] that seven-year roller coaster that an Olympic games is ends up on a high," Scanlon said.

"When the games are delivered everybody forgets about the seven years of challenges and thinks about the performance of the athletes that are here today, and that's what it's all about," he said.

Scanlon said that the recent test event on March 8th amplified the enthusiasm of the players.

"The excitement among the Brazilian players participating became infectious," the IGF executive said. "The golf course was fantastic, a credit to Amy and Gil. Rio is a great place for a party and a great place for an Olympic event.

"Golf is back in the Olympics and it’s going to be great to watch."

Written by Brian Pinelli

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