Canadian golfer Lyon's roar echoes 112 years on

Wed May 25, 2016 10:07am EDT
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By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - A 46-year-old golfer beating competitors more than half his age in a virtual monsoon to win an Olympic gold medal a mere eight years after taking up the sport sounds like something straight out of a fairytale.

But the almost forgotten story of little-known Canadian insurance salesman George Lyon, a Scotch-swigging multi-sport athlete, has been salvaged thanks to golf's return to the Olympics in August after a 112-year absence.

Lyon, who died in 1938 at the age of 79, is the reigning Olympic champion after having defied the odds by navigating a 36-hole Monday qualifier followed by five consecutive days of 36-hole matchplay at the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis.

After pulling off a massive upset over Chandler Egan, who at the time was a 20-year-old reigning U.S. amateur champion, a playful Lyon turned himself upside-down and walked on his hands to receive his Olympic medal and trophy.

"It was something we always knew about and we knew that it wasn't that highly publicized and he wasn't really that well known," Lyon's great-grandson, Sandy Somers, told Reuters at Lyon's former golf club in Toronto.

"We started talking about it again when it was announced that golf was returning to the Olympics and it just sunk in, he's the defending champion. It's a fabulous story."

Lyon excelled at each sport he played - including baseball, rugby, football, hockey, track and field and especially cricket. At 18, he set a Canadian record in the pole vault and would go on to represent his country at cricket, scoring 238 not out for his club, which stood as a Canadian record for nearly 40 years.

He got his first taste of golf when a friend, who noticed Lyon's cricket teammates were late for practice, invited him to put down his bat and play some golf on a neighboring course.   Continued...