Rio's Olympic golf course is ready for play, but who will show up to compete?  (Courtesy of Golf Channel)

Rio golf course architect Gil Hanse disappointed over Olympic golf withdrawals, Zika concerns



Remember when Olympic golf's biggest concern was the completion of the course?

And even before that, who was going to build it?

As you know by now, Gil Hanse got the job. And it was, in part, because he was willing to move his family to Rio and spend most of his time on site to navigate not only the construction, but also what turned out the be the political and environmental minefield that was his canvas.

In the end, Hanse was in Rio for 280 days and he and his team delivered the Olympic golf course they hoped to build from the beginning. Not only was it done in time for the Olympics, they completed it in time for a successful test event in March.

So Hanse built it, and at this rate, no one is going to come.

Which is an exaggeration, but on the heels of Jason Day -- The World No. 1 -- withdrawing this week, it's as if there will be a medal ceremony, there just won't be a podium for the winners to stand on.

"The overall feeling is disappointment," Hanse said. "To have done what we've done, to have worked through so many challenges to complete the project, you’d obviously love to see the best players in the world compete on your golf course."

Hanse says he is contact with the team still on the ground in Rio, which includes the superintendent and the PGA Tour's on-site agronomist, who are prepping the course for the Olympics.

"Morale is getting lower," Hanse said. "I'm disappointed for everyone involved."


Golf Channel: USA Golf, 4 Americans meet over Rio concerns


Having spent 15 months on Hanse's crew in Rio, Kyle Franz was very much involved. "It's a bummer," says Franz, who recently completed the restoration of Mid Pines in the Sandhills of North Carolina, and is about to start work on restoring the greens at Pine Needles.

"From the grand view, for people in Rio, the Zika virus is laughable," Franz said. "It's a problem, yes, and it's being dealt with. But having been there, and for the people who live there, it's amazing how it's being blown out of proportion."

Franz says that because of the location of the course, and the prevailing winds, mosquitoes were rarely a factor for the crew. "Especially in August, which is a winter month in Brazil."

"I got sick in January and I remember thinking, "Is it Zika? Is it Zika?' It was just food poisoning. Trust me, that's a much bigger concern down there."

So, to recap, three out of the Top 10 men are out: Jason Day (No. 1), Rory McIlroy (No. 3) and Adam Scott (No. 8). And after Shane Lowry also withdrew this week, it's eight out of the Top 50.

On Wednesday, Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa became the first female golfer to withdraw. And it's seems safe to say, as we get closer to the start of the Olympics (August 5—21), there will be more.

"Why the players decide not to go, only they will know," said Hanse. "And they'll have to live with that."

"I was just talking about this with another member of the crew," Franz said. "The players who choose not to go will regret it. Personally, I can't wait to go back. I'm looking forward to it."

Hanse, Franz and a few other members of the crew will be back in Rio for the Olympics, staying in the same house that most of them stayed in throughout the building of the golf course.

“It's unfortunate," said Franz. "But either way, it's going to turn out great. Golf in the Olympics is new. It was going to take time to build momentum with the players anyway."

Video: Ginella talks Gil Hanse and Olympic golf dropouts


Jun 30, 2016



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Matt Ginella

Special Contributor

Matt Ginella is Golf Channel's resident travel insider. He writes for GolfChannel.com and appears weekly on "Morning Drive." Before Golf Channel, Ginella was senior travel editor for Golf Digest and Golf World from 2007-2012 and covered courses, resorts and the avid amateur golfer's annual buddies trips to over 60 destinations around the country. Ginella graduated from St. Mary's College (Calif.) in 1995 and earned a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2003. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattginellagc and on Instagram at @Matt_Ginella.


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