Olympic gold medal winners to get major exemptions

Mon Apr 4, 2016 6:44pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Golf's major championships threw their support behind the sport's return to the Olympics on Monday, offering exemptions for men's and women's gold medal winners this year to all grand slam events.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Atlanta Games, told a news conference that the men's gold medal winner in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will make its return to the Summer Games for the first time in more than a century, would get an invitation to the 2017 Masters.

The Royal and Ancient and Ladies Golf Union will offer similar one-year exemptions to the men's and women's British Opens while the PGA of America and United States Golf Association followed suit with their two flagship events.

With the LPGA Tour giving the women's gold medal winner in Rio an automatic exemption into the 2016 Evian Championship and the 2017 ANA Inspiration, all nine majors (four for men and five for women) will be supporting the initiative.

"We believe our game's visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer," said Payne, speaking on the first official day of Masters practice.

"New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf.

"From this greater visibility, we believe will evolve greater participation in our game, and it will be a certain beneficiary."

Payne was joined on the podium by R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua and USGA chief executive Mike Davis, four of the most powerful men in golf united in their support of the Olympics.   Continued...