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Original Issue

Czech Bounce

What would Olympic golf mean? Here's a report from the game's frontier

As I see it, mycountry, the Czech Republic, is best known for three things, or should be:great beer, beautiful women and beautiful golf courses. The game has beengrowing quickly since the fall of communism in 1989 and our rebirth as ademocratic country. People have more money and free time. We see the game onTV—the big three are the British Open, the Masters and the Czech Open—and wantto try it.

I'm the executivedirector of the Czech Golf Federation, and we are anticipating another eventthat will promote golf's growth: the game's addition to the Olympics startingin 2016. To use an expression I learned as a student (and golfer) at theUniversity of Hartford in the late 1990s, it's not a "done deal"—anofficial announcement from the IOC is expected on Oct. 9—but we believe thatOlympic golf would draw young Czech athletes to the game as never before. Thatwould mean more driving ranges, more courses, more visitors and more hotels toaccommodate them. As you Americans say, It's all good.

Czechs lovesports and Olympic sports in particular. The whole country follows how we do insoccer (football to us), hockey and skiing. With golf as an Olympic sport, ourgolf federation will try to persuade our national athletic federation toprovide funding for golf, something we have never even asked for before.

Under theInternational Golf Federation proposal for Olympic golf, there could easily be40 or 50 countries sending golfers to the Olympics. In many of those countriesgolf will be relatively new. This is a fresh start for a lot of us. Our view isthat we have as good a chance to develop golf talent as any other country, ormaybe better. Look at all the good golfers in Canada, another hockey-lovingcountry. The hockey swing and the golf swing have similarities, and we thinkCzech kids will take to golf if they're exposed to it.

Golf in theOlympics will be for professionals. Today, our best golfers are amateurs. AlexCejka was born in Czechoslovakia but now has deeper ties to Germany. Anothernative, Ivan Lendl, the Hall of Fame tennis player, has two teenage daughters,both of whom are promising golfers, but they are American. Our Tiger Woods isKlara Spilkova, a 15-year-old who played in the last junior Solheim Cup. Itwill be fascinating to see where she is in seven years.

The CzechRepublic has a population of 10 million but only 48,000 avid golfers. By 2016we hope that number will triple, at least. Some of them may represent ourbeautiful country in the greatest sport in the world on the biggest globalstage. If this happens, we'll be thrilled.




Great 50%

O.K. 43%

Disappointing 7%

"Any year that we get to watch a golf legend inhis prime is a great year."

—Glen Deck, Pelican Hill



GROWTH SPORT Karlstejn is one of only 80 courses in the Czech Republic.