You’ll never believe what happened to George Lyon, the last golfer to win gold at the Olympics.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a heap of coverage about golf at the Olympics. After a lot of negative press, it actually turned out pretty good, with Justin Rose winning the first gold medal for golf in 112 years.
Rickie Fowler also turned up for his country, a gesture for which his fellow US athletes were ‘almost thanking him’. He’s still facing an uphill battle to get on the Ryder Cup team, mind. But that’s another story…
— CLICKON Golf (@CLICKONGolf) August 19, 2016
It took long enough, but golf made a somewhat triumphant return. It wouldn’t have taken so long, however, had it not been for a series of events centred around 1904 gold medal winner in golf, George Lyon, which would have been funny if they weren’t so gutting. This is the story of what happened.
It’s not like golf was part of the 1904 Olympics and then forgotten about. It was actually supposed to make a return to the 1908 Olympics in Great Britain. In fact, according to the International Golf Federations website, a competition of 108 holes. Holy shit, I’ll repeat that. 108 holes were to be played over three English courses: Royal St. George’s GC, Prince’s GC and Cinqueports GC.
Nevertheless, it was not to be. A falling out between the R&A and the Olympic organising committee caused all Great Britain’s entrants to drop out.
This type of disagreement would blight golf once more. The next time would be at the 1996 Atlanta games when the organising committee refused to let Augusta National play host because their membership policy smacked of racism. As with the 1908 games, the event ended up being cancelled altogether.
Golf’s return at the 1996 games never got off the ground, but the situation was very different for George Lyon. The defending champion was already crossing the Atlantic to defend his title when he got the news. After sailing all the way across the ocean, surviving storm, tempest, scurvy and giant octopi, it was only when he arrived that he was told the event was cancelled. Unlucky George.
In compensation for hauling his ass halfway across the world, the Canadian former amateur golf champion was offered an honorary gold medal, basically just to say sorry and thanks for making the effort to get there. Understandably, he turned it down, possibly throwing around a few expletives in the process.
There was talk of golf being included in the 1912 summer games in Sweden, but a lack of interest in the sport doomed that. Another lack of entrants ruined golf’s chances at the 1920 games in Belgium, after that it was sort of just forgotten about until now.
So when you next hear that Justin Rose is the first Olympic gold medal winning golfer in 112 years, spare a thought for poor old George Lyon, one of the unluckiest Olympians in history. And remember that he most probably told the Olympic organising committee to shove their honorary gold medal up their asses.