Brandon Stone has been soaking up the Olympic atmosphere in Rio de Janeiro this week, but on Thursday he has to get down to business.
‘To classify oneself as an Olympian is something special. When I’m a 95-year-old grandfather sitting with my grandson on my knee, telling him that I once competed in the Olympics in Rio will be a great story,’ he said.
Golf returns for the first time in 112 years and Stone is one of two South Africans flying the flag in the men’s tournament. Jaco van Zyl is the second player from the Rainbow Nation.
The seaside course, designed by Gil Hanse, will test 60 of the world’s best over four rounds of stroke play. There is not cut and players are expected to come out firing.
‘It’s a really tricky course with tiny, tiny greens. No rough, but it’s a true test and if the wind gets up it will be hard to go low. It’s not easy out there,’ said Stone.
Gary Player is the captain for SA golf at the Olympics and brings invaluable experience to the table. He’ll help to calm the nerves and guide the contestants in their bid for medal honours.
— Brandon Stone (@BrandonMStone) August 9, 2016
Stone, who won the South African Open in January, would like nothing more than to come away with a medal, but he faces stiff competition.
The Americans were able to field four golfers based on ranking, so Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, and Patrick Reed will be in the mix.
England’s Danny Willett and Justin Rose make a formidable pair, while Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Sergio Garcia (Spain) and Martin Kaymer (Germany) are all world-class players to keep an eye on.
Adilson da Silva tees up for Brazil, while young star Emiliano Grillo plays for Argentina. The local fans will surely give the South Americans an extra boost.
For Stone the chance to win an Olympic medal was not something he imagined while growing up, but the opportunity stands before him. On Thursday the hunt begins.
‘Regardless of whether I medal or finish last, to be here shows that you are in that top group of athletes. Just to go through this experience is something I will hold dear for the rest of my life,’ he concluded.