Saturday, July 13, 2024

Going Dutch – Irish Golfer Magazine

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For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘Going Dutch’ means paying for yourself and yourself only. No getting a round in, no ‘I’ll get this if you get that’, no ‘you can pay me back another time’.

And having spent four years living on the Dutch/Belgian border, I can attest that, for the most part, they hold true to form. They don’t quite have the short arms and deep pockets of the Cavan man, but they’re in the ball park.

Even still, when news broke a fortnight ago that the Dutch Olympic Committee weren’t sending Joost Luiten, Darius van Driel and Dewi Weber to the Olympics – despite qualifying – because they didn’t think they stood a realistic chance of winning a medal, I was shocked.

This was frugality on a whole different scale. In the grand scheme of things, even for a small country like the Netherlands, an additional three athletes weren’t going to majorly alter the financial outlay. They’re already sending 258 athletes who they are more than happy to shell out for, why not 261?

But then I delved a little deeper and discovered that they’re only sending four male basketball players, and since any basketball match I’ve ever watched has been five-a-side, maybe they’re making minor cuts across the board. Maybe they’re sending the equestrian team, but not the horses? Sending the rowing team but not the boats? Medals might be hard come by if that’s the case.

Still, there’s precedent for outsiders getting in the medal positions in golf, most notably when then 204-ranked Rory Sabbatini, born in South Africa but Slovakian through marriage, became the toast of Bratislava when he won silver at the Tokyo Games.

Luiten wasn’t going down without a fight though, and took his case before a judge who ruled in his favour and ordered that the Dutch Olympic Committee and Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) had to include him, which they then did.

A delighted Luiten took to social media and posted an image of the Olympic rings accompanied by the good news that he was Paris bound.

A happy ending, right? Wrong. This is a tale with more twists than a Chubby Checker tribute night.

Naturally, after receiving the Dutch entries with just Anne Van Dam listed, the International Olympic Committee moved down the list of players eligible and Luiten’s place went to Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen, who couldn’t exactly be turfed out again. The 60-man field, it appears, is full, and an International Golf Federation appeal on Luiten ‘s behalf to have the field increased to 61 given the special circumstances, fell on deaf ears.

So Luiten went back to social media again and again posted an image of the Olympic rings, this time with a large, black ‘X’ blighting the image, his Olympic dream, it seems, in ruin.

Perhaps he should’ve first offered to pay his own way to Paris. After all, as I discovered during those four years of border living, golf is very much an elitist pursuit. Whenever I’d mention to the natives that I played golf, I’d always be met with a curious, head-to-toe scanning look as they tried to come to terms that this dishevelled figure before them in the Penneys clothing and cheap shoes was actually wealthy.

Since most of the elite athletes you’ll witness in competition across of the near-month-long Games are effectively on the breadline, maybe they’d have a point about the golfers, but they’d be part of a team and you can’t play favourites in a team environment. One rule for one, one rule for all.

But either way, it’s a bad look for the NOC*NSF. To be seen as stingy carries a stink all its own. Just ask Matt Kuchar.

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