The man who won the gold medal the last time the Olympics included golf in the programme was something of a sporting talent.
George S Lyon might not have been as prodigiously gifted as the former Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong il, but nonetheless he was rather good at everything he touched.
Golf was last played at the Olympics in 1904 in St Louis and the likes of Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Greg Norman and even Tiger Woods can be relieved that it wasn’t seen at Barcelona 1992 or Atlanta 1996, but rather now, at Rio 2016. Because Kim Jong il shot an amazing 38-under-par 34 at Pyongyang, including 11 holes-in-one, on the first occasion he picked up a set of clubs. After that he’d routinely shoot three or four holes-in-one. Can you imagine the world’s best professionals being embarrassed in such a manner had golf been an Olympic sport in the 1990s?
Lyon too, was rather gifted. The archives tell the story of a cricketing genius who set a batting world record in 1894 at the age of 36. He had made 234 not out and ironically his talent was spotted by a golfer, playing on a course alongside Lyon, who was said to be batting in a game.
‘Oi, why don’t you play a real man’s sport?’ was said to be the gist of what a golfer shouted at him. Lyon, then 37, hurdled the fence and gave it a go for the first time. No holes-in-one, but the birth of a proper golfer.
Within three years he had risen to the No 1 spot on the Canadian amateur rankings and was one of three Canadians who competed at the St Louis Games in September 1904. A total of 77 golfers entered the individual competition held at the Glen Echo Country Club, of which 74 were from the US. Little wonder they stopped gold, silver and bronze in the team competition.
However, Lyon prevailed in the men’s individual competition.
He came up against Chandler Egan, a 20-year-old from Chicago, who was the favourite going into the event, having won the NCAA Individual golf title in 1902, while attending Harvard. He was also the reigning US Amateur champion.
Aged 46 and wearing golf pants, an undershirt, a shirt and tie, a vest and a jacket, Lyon was 26 years Egan’s senior. He was also diabetic. But by outdriving Egan consistently, Lyon pulled off the upset. Despite Lyon setting a new course record in the morning 18 with a round of 77, the pair remained in a close match until the 33rd hole, when Egan pulled his tee shot into a water hazard, leaving Lyon 2 up with three to play. Another poor tee shot on the 34th hole opened the door for Lyon to close out the match, which he did with a par, to win by 3-and-2. He had played 36 holes a day for six days in the Missouri humidity.
Egan went on to successfully defend his US Amateur title in 1905, and just two years before his death from pneumonia in 1936, he was a member of the winning US Walker Cup team in St Andrews, Scotland.
History says that Lyon went to the London Olympics to defend his title in 1908, but plans to stage a golf tournament there fell through, with the event cancelled at the last minute. In 1956, Lyon was elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and in 1971, he was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
In subsequent years historians attempted to track down the medals won by Lyon and Egan, but that’s when the panic set in. There was no trace.
It was only last year, that Egan’s was discovered (along with his team gold medal) in the bottom of a bookcase in the former home of Egan’s daughter in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, about 40km southeast of Cleveland.
Morris Everett Jnr, one of Egan’s two grandsons, discovered the medals while cleaning out his late mother’s home situated on a 24-acre farm where he and his brother grew up. Eleanor, who was Egan’s only child, died in 2012 at the age of 101.
Lyon’s remains missing. The story goes that he probably sold it during the Great Depression to put food on the table, by being melted down. A family member, however, claims to have been in possession of the medal but at some point lost it when her son took it out of the home to show some kids on their street.
112 Years Ago
A peek at what was happening in the world when golf was last staged at the Olympic Games in 1904
1904: Newcastle United won the English First Division in 1904-05, losing just once in 34 games, although third-placed Manchester City were unbeaten that season. Everton finished runners-up, with Aston Villa fourth. Small Heath finished seventh, defending champions, The Wednesday, were ninth and Woolwich Arsenal 10th. Ross County finished bottom.
Governing body Fifa was founded, with Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland being the national associations signing up.
29-year-old James Jeffries was world heavyweight champion and made the seventh – and final defence – of his title when stopping Jack Munroe in two rounds. He then retired, before returning in 1910 to take on the formidable Jack Johnson and was stopped in the 15th round.
Transvaal were South Africa’s Currie Cup champions.
The second Tour de France was held and it was won by France’s Henri Cornet.
Two black Africans competed for the first time in the Olympics and both represented South Africa. Len Tau (real name: Len Taunyane) and Yamasani (real name: Jan Mashiani) finished ninth and 12th, respectively, in the men’s marathon.
The 22nd Home Nations Championship was won by Scotland.
On 14 July the fifth president of South Africa, Paul Kruger, died aged 78, having left South Africa when the war turned against the Boers in 1900. His body was returned home and he was buried in Pretoria.
In November, Republican Theodore Roosevelt beat the Democrat Alton B Parker to become US president.
Henry Ford set a new land speed record of 147.05km/h.
The Great Baltimore Fire in Maryland destroyed more than 1 500 buildings in 30 hours.
80 000 demonstrators gathered in London’s Hyde Park to protest against Chinese labourers being imported to South Africa by the British government.