The relationship between the Olympic Games (OG) and golf has always been very distant, and never passionate. Weighed down by the Olympic movement's historical lack of interest in the world of the little white ball. On the program of the Games at the beginning of the XXe century, from 1900 to 1904, golf then disappeared from the radar for one hundred and twelve years, before making its comeback during the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, in 2016. Without however attracting immediate support from the best international golfers. In Brazil, twelve of the twenty best players in the world did not respond.
A logical observation for Christophe Muniesa, general manager of the French Golf Federation (FFGolf), because “the discipline was organized far from the Olympic world. The reference events, throughout the XXe century, were the major tournaments". Namely: the Augusta Masters, the US Open and the PGA Championship, in the United States, and the British Open. Result: when the Games represent the Holy Grail for some athletes, among golfers, ignoring the competition is far from heartbreaking.
In 2021, Victor Perez, the 30-year-old French number one, tipped to compete in the Tokyo Games, had finally declined the invitation a month before the start of the tournament. In a press release, the golfer from Tarbes mentioned a “very condensed international calendar” and the need to forfeit " for [lui] allow to accomplish [ses] 2021 goals.” Without the Olympics, therefore.
The Olympic effervescence does not reign over the discipline. A situation reinforced by the absence of results from the Habs on this meeting. France has never won a podium at the Olympics. At best, a 21e place signed Grégory Bourdy in Rio, then, respectively, the 35e and 45e positions of Romain Langasque and Antoine Rozner in Tokyo.
Meet at home
But times have changed, assures the general manager of the FFGolf. The years of famine seem to belong to the past. Compensated by "an awareness and a desire of professional players to be in this tournament". “The Olympic event is once again part of the sporting heritage of the discipline, assures Christophe Muniesa. It is considered that this event has its place alongside those of the Grand Slam. »
A statement shared by Romain Langasque, who had replaced his compatriot Victor Perez at short notice in Tokyo. However, in 2019, the native of the Alpes-Maritimes had announced "that he did not dream of being an Olympic champion". This outing caused him a lot of hassle on social networks. Three years after these declarations, his experience in Japan led him to reconsider his position. " The fourth [tournois] majors that we play each year remain the goal of a career. Winning one brings more prestige in the industry. But, since 2021, my state of mind has evolved and with experience, I would say that the Olympics are up to these four majors..
Drawing on his Tokyo experience, Romain Langasque, 34e in the European ranking, even makes the Paris Olympics a priority. With the objective of winning a medal in 2024. Firstly because the meeting is given “at home”. Then, because the competition will take place at the National Golf, in Guyancourt (Yvelines), playground of the Open de France gentlemen each year. “A real competitive advantage”, according to Christophe Muniesa.
“Playing at home gives us the support of the public and that's a real strength. I have played this course since I was a child during the French championships and, every year, at the French Open”, confirms Romain Langasque.
The Covid-19 air pocket
Before the deadline, the FFGolf wishes to intensify the gatherings at the National Golf. The goal, "To bring this Olympic spirit to life, that the players benefit from the fact that the competition takes place on this course and to be sure that they place their participation in the tournament in their sporting calendar"lists Mr. Muniesa.
A signposting of the land not insignificant for the tricolor golf course, which has struggled to shine on the international scene in recent years. No player is in the top 100 worldwide, a first since 2019. In the ranks, the Covid-19 has left its mark. “The constraints were not the same in Europe and the United States, recalls the general manager of the FFGolf. The circuit left much faster there and, with the exception of Perez, few French people were able to play in America. So they dropped in the world rankings. And beyond that loss of points, golfers also underperformed when they had playing opportunities.”
An air hole that the players will have to fill in the two years that separate them from the Paris Games. Two years to use for the new generation to find a place at the highest level. Behind Victor Perez, Romain Langasque or Antoine Rozner, Julien Sale and Tom Vaillant could also represent France in Paris. At 24 and 20, they finished sixth at the World Amateur Team Championships on September 3. They will soon leave the amateur level for the professional world. "They performed extremely well and with good results, I believe they have the ability to be selected for Paris", ensures the general manager of the federation.