I have had the personal opportunity to attend just a handful of Olympic events such as Handball, Water Polo, Equestrian Eventing and now Golf while here in Rio for the Summer Olympic Games.
Golf has only made two appearances in the Olympics on two separate occasions: in Paris in 1900 and St. Louis 1904. Back at the Olympics this year, it now has a men’s and women’s competition, and it involves more countries than just the United States and Canada.
On Thursday, I was one of the attendees to this event. At first, I didn’t know what to expect from attending a golf event of this magnitude. I have never attended the PGA Tour or BMW Championship; therefore, I had limited knowledge of this sport.
At 7:30 a.m., we departed for the Olympic Park, which is located south of Olympic Park in Barra Di Tijuca. Together, with Debbie Davis, Sammi Coppedge and Elizabeth Wyman, we descended down the stairs into the Botofogo metro station, traveling toward General Osório.
After riding the metro for the majority of our journey, we than transferred stations to the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), which heads directly to the course.
One hour and a half had passed, roughly, before the four of us stepped foot in the sand outside the course. It was an exciting feeling to be surrounded by other spectators to the event who were there gearing up to share the experience of this event and sport.
I immediately had the feeling you get when have a sense of pride for something. I saw other people from other nations supporting their players, and it brought that sense of being at a competition of this magnitude to life. I can vividly recall moments from this event and the others where I felt a speechless moment followed by goosebumps from the raucous atmosphere that spectators create.
The first stop past security, naturally, was to grab a quick photo in front of the Olympic rings that were on display inside the venue. Then we quickly moved onto the first venue shopping area.
After the few stops, we finally made it to the first hole to see one of the groups begin their 18-hole journey through the course. Shortly after the tee-off, we left the stands and went to the first place to catch up with one of the members of Team USA Golf.
The one thing about this event that differed more than any of the others was the closeness you feel to the players because of the course. It was amazing to be standing only a few feet from Rickie Folwer, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed.
Just in passing to the next hole, Watson hit a ball out of the fairway into the rough. Myself and others from the United States were standing around him as he chipped the ball back into the fairway.
After completely going crazy at the thought that you could be that close to the action of the sport at the Olympics was mind blowing, our group eventually caught up with all four members of Team USA Golf to see them play in the day’s round.
As the day came to a close, a little combination of sun and wind burn did some damage to my face, but the day turned out to be worth every moment.
I personally waited in the super-small line to get autographs from Folwer and Watson. This was the icing on the cake to my experience at the venue and sport.
I cannot recall any Olympic sports where you can come that close to the players and get autographs without waiting a long time in line. It was super exciting to walk away with those autographs, instilling that pride and sense of competition that is bigger than myself.
Awesome is the best word to describe seeing the product of Rio — building a golf course from scratch and now knowing it will become a part of the community. Upon the closure of the Olympics, the course will become the first public golf course in Brazil.
Nathan DeYoung is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.