Tech’s prestigious Olympic history has been the subject of a great deal of yellow jacket pride since the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Every day students have the opportunity to work out where some of the world’s greatest athletes made history. Most students know Tech’s Olympic history to be closely tied to swimming and diving, as McAuley Aquatic Center was an Olympic competition venue and was used to host the sendoff celebration for the 2016 U.S. Olympic diving team.
Men’s Golf is returning to the Olympic Games after 112 years, and Tech alum, Matt Kuchar is grateful for the chance to bring home a historic gold.
The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio are historically significant for golfers and golf fans, but that hasn’t prevented them from getting off to an anxious start. Athletes and coaches alike have voiced concerns about their personal health and safety, as well as the health and safety of their families.
Many of the world’s top golfers have withdrawn from the games in response to these concerns, specifically the possibility of being affected by the outbreaks of zika virus in the area. Even with a large amount of withdrawals, eight of the Olympic golfers competing this summer are ranked in the top fifteen in the world. However, when Jordan Spieth, ranked third in the world, withdrew halfway through this summer, Tech gained Olympic representation when Tech graduate Matt Kuchar stepped up to take his place.
Kuchar graduated from Tech in 2000 with a management degree and a rising professional golf career. Since graduating Kuchar has competed in more than three hundred PGA events and earned at least seven PGA Tour victories. This year Kuchar competed with a 69.674 scoring average and has continued to maintain his position as one of the top 17 golfers
in the world.
American golfers make up a large chunk of the top 15 golfers worldwide earning them four spots to compete in the summer Olympics this year. Kuchar was open about his desire to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games, but even after Spieth officially withdrew, there was no guarantee that Kuchar would take the spot.
In order to assure that the open spot was his, Kuchar had to move further up the roster of the top seventeen golfers in the world. The Olympic Games were only a month off, and Kuchar only had a few opportunities to prove himself before the U.S. golf team headed to Rio.
Kuchar handled the pressure well and moved up two spots, to No.15, in the Official World Golf Rankings at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after tying for third place with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole.
The week before the British Open, the rosters for the Olympic Golf teams were finalized. Matt Kuchar will be competing with Bubba Watson (No. 6), Rickie Fowler (No. 7) and Patrick Reed (No. 14) on the men’s team for the opportunity to make Olympic history. All four U.S. men’s golfers are therefore ranked in the top 15 in the world.
The PGA Championship will take place before the start of the Olympic Games. The golfer’s that aren’t competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics have the opportunity to get in a little extra training before the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup that will take place this fall.
Kuchar and his team mates will have to put up with packed fall competition schedules, but welcome the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Rio Summer Olympic Games.