February 1, 2016 / 9:35 AM / in 2 years

Bangladeshi 'Tiger' desperate to earn Olympic stripes

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - While former world number one Adam Scott dismisses the value of an Olympic gold medal, Bangladeshi golfer Siddikur Rahman is unequivocal about its importance to the wider world ahead of the sport’s return at the Rio Games later this year.

The self-taught world number 310, dubbed the ‘Bangladeshi Tiger Woods’ at home, has never competed at one of golf’s four major championships, meaning the Olympics, should he qualify, would easily stand out as the pinnacle of his career.

“Wow, yes, It would be very exciting for me if I can get in,” the 31-year-old told Reuters during a rain delay at the recent Singapore Open.

“Obviously I have a target for that, I just need to play better to get in. It would be a very good impact for my country to get into it.”

The top 15 players in the world rankings on July 11 will qualify automatically for the Aug. 5-21 Games but only four can come from any one country.

The remainder of the 60-man field will be determined by the rankings, with a maximum of two players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

Siddikur currently sits 58th on the list, just inside the qualification spots.

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Bangladesh’s Olympic record is far from spectacular since it first sent athletes to the 1988 Seoul Games following invites from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The country of 160 million is frequently described as the largest to never win an Olympic medal, with sport too expensive for most and a low priority for many others.

Siddikur, though, is hoping to change that and the “village boy” who started playing at eight with a homemade iron and was 15 before he got his hands on an authentic set of clubs, could become the first Bangladeshi to qualify for an Olympics.

“Maybe I could be the first. I hope I will get in, let’s see, there is a long way to go. If I can play my own game, I think it won’t be a problem,” the former child caddy said after he missed the cut in Singapore.

Australian Scott, a three-time winner of the Singapore title and also the 2013 U.S. Masters, has been dismissive of the first Olympic golf event since the 1904 Games, describing it as an exhibition that did not merit a place.

For Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour, the opportunity is a welcome one for both him and his peers from other emerging golf markets.

“Philippines, Sri Lanka, more countries have a chance to get in,” said the golfer, who rose to prominence as a teenager when he used his homemade seven iron to win a tournament for caddies in Dhaka.

“I would say its a great thing because golf, all over the world we play golf, so it should be in the Olympics. It is a really good decision to put it in,” he said, before pausing to imagine the impact of winning gold.

”I don’t know what will happen. The Olympics is something all over the world. An Olympic gold medal is just ‘wow’, I couldn’t imagine what would happen.

“Honestly, if I can get into the Olympics that is the one achievement, if I can play good that is another.”

Editing by John O'Brien

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