The LPGA Tour is a bustling right about now, In addition to the regular late spring-summer schedule, the world’s best female golfers are making preparations for the Olympic Games. For the first time in over a century golf will be part of the Olympic program. A field of 60 will tee it up at the Olympic course in Rio the week of August 15. It’s the first time golf will be part of the Games since 1904.
Anna Nordqvist will be wearing Swedish colors when the competition begins. Nordqvist, who turned 29 on June 10, is no stranger to international competition. She’s played for four European Solheim Cup sides and posted a 3-0-1 record for her homeland in the inaugural International Crown in 2014.
She’s also coming off an impressive performance at the ShopRite LPGA Championship earlier this month that saw her record her sixth LPGA win while equaling the tournament scoring record
But the Olympics are a different matter. While the Games wasn’t on her radar when her professional career began, for obvious reasons, she’s embracing the idea of competing alongside the world’s finest athletes.
“I’ve always been a huge sports fan,” Nordqvist says. “I didn’t start playing golf until I was 13 so I always did a lot of other sports (chief among them swimming) and I always watched a lot of the Olympics. I never thought about competing in the Olympics because golf wasn’t introduced until a couple of years ago but then ever since it has been a big goal. I definitely admire the journey, the way people put in work and follow their dreams.”
Nordqvist acknowledges that the players who will compete in Rio have a different perspective than athletes in other sports. “For example, you have canoers,” she says. “They work so hard and they have that one minute every four years. We still have our majors, we still have our other tournaments every year and the swimmers or the shooters they have that one or two minutes every four years and they way they talk about it and they put in the hard work, I cannot imagine what it’s going to feel like (but) I’m sure I’m going to be able to look back at my career and say ‘I made it to the Olympics’ and talk about what a special feeling it was.”
Time will tell where and Olympic medal will fit on the spectrum of golfing accomplishments. But it is likely to have a significant impact on the public perception of the sport, particularly among those who don’t follow the sport regularly.
“I think our majors are still going to weigh a little higher I think as far as the history,” Nordqvist says. “I think we’re just not going to know until after this first Olympics what it means for the sport. I think as an athlete it’s going to be one of the highlights, being able to compete in an Olympics and I think it just makes golf feel a little more accepted a sport too. And I think it just brings an awareness to our sport and the way people look at our sport.”
Qualifying for the Olympics will continue through July 11. Olympic berths are awarded based on world rankings. The top 15 players qualify with a limit of four players per country. Beyond that, the limit is two players per country.
A member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Rick Woelfel has covered women’s golf for three decades. Based in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania he has covered the LPGA and Symetra Tours for various media outlets and also has an extensive background covering amateur golf in the golfing hotbed of Philadelphia.
Rick is particularly attracted to the history of the sport and credits the LPGA and its players for their efforts to preserve the history of their organization. In 2012, he had the opportunity to attend the Founders Cup and had the opportunity to interview all the then living Founders, an experience he lists as one of the most memorable of his career.
Apart from golf, Rick has written extensively about other sports and had a long career in radio. He has just completed his first book, So You Want to Play Golf, a guide for new golfers, which was a joint effort with PGA professional Kim Verrecchio.
Image credit: Photos of Anna Nordqvist at the 2016 LPGA Shoprite Classic by Tom Imperial.
Freelance sports photographer, Tom Imperial has worked alongside Rick Woelfel photographing LPGA, PGA, and PGA Champions tournament events for over 20 years. His images have featured in 4 books and countless golf magazines.
Based in Devon, Pennsylvania, you can follow Tom Imperial online on Facebook.