The Men’s Olympic golf event came to a thrilling finish in Tokyo on Sunday as American star Xander Schauffele held his nerve to win by one stroke with a solid 18 under par performance. However the silver medalist, Rory Sabbatini, playing for Slovakia provided some fireworks with an amazing 10 under par 61 to come charging up the leaderboard.
Both Schaffele and Sabbatini’s medals come with amazing back stories, which we share here with you.
The 27-year-old Xander is son to a French-German father Stefan Schauffele who was a top class athlete in Germany and moved to the US after his dreams of being an Olympic decathlete ended when a drunk driver slammed into his car, making him partially blind in one eye. Schauffele’s great-grandfather Richard Schauffele, was one of Germany’s top discus and javelin throwers, but a shoulder injury kept him out of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Xander with his gold has finally achieved what his family dreamt of for nearly a century. He later posted his Olympics podium photo on his social media, acknowledging his father’s dream.
This medal is for my country and my family, especially my dad!🥇🇺🇸
— Xander Schauffele (@XSchauffele) August 1, 2021
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 1, 2021
Rory Sabbatini, at 45 was the oldest player in the field and was born and bred in South Africa, a country for whom he won the World Cup of golf partnering with Trevor Immelman in 2003. Sabbatini has 6 PGA tour career victories and lives in Florida with his Slovakian wife Martina Stofanikova. In early 2019, Sabbatini took Slovakian citizenship with the aim of inspiring young people in Slovakia to play golf. The country has only 9,000 registered golfers and 26 golf courses. His wife’s cousin, Rastislav Antal, is the President of the Slovak Golf Association but Sabbatini got into the Olympics based on his world golf ranking. His silver medal will surely go a long way to bring attention to the sport in Slovakia and hopefully his heroic final round will inspire young kids to follow the Olympic dream. This medal will surely go a long way in achieving for golf what its inclusion in the Olympics was designed to do.
Fittingly, immediately after his silver medal performance, Sabbatini was scheduled to travel to Slovakia where he was committed to a half day golf clinic. Undoubtedly, he will be given a hero’s welcome – one that he most certainly deserves.
Kasumigaseki – Olympic venue
Unlike the course in Rio that was built especially to host the games, Kasumigaseki, venue for Tokyo 2020 Men’s & Women’s golf competitions is one of the oldest and most prestigious historic courses in a country with nearly 2000 golf courses. Founded in 1929, it has hosted many great events including:
World Cup – 1957
Japan Open – 1933, 1956, 1995, 2006
Japan Women’s Open – 1999
Japan Amateur – 1965, 1977
Japan Women’s Amateur – 1956, 1964, 1974
Asian Amateur Championship – 2010
The 7466 yard par-71 course is where current Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama first shot into the limelight. In 2010, Hideki shot 269 (15-under-par) to win the Asian Amateur Championship by five strokes, which helped him earn a spot at the 2011 Masters Tournament, where he later went on to finish as the leading amateur, tied-27th at 1-under 287.
The Indian duo of 34-year-old Anirban Lahiri and 30-year-old Udayan Mane played steady golf in what was a low scoring event. Lahiri finished tied-42nd with scores of 67-72-68-72 (5-under par) while Mane finished 56th with 76-69-70-72 (3-over par). Whereas both played solid golf, the learnings and experience will stand them in good stead over time.
The much younger Indian girls, Aditi Ashok age 23 and Diksha Dagar, age 20, have arrived in Tokyo and will start the women’s competition on August 4th.
Little known trivia
Indian veteran Jeev Milkha Singh, with 4 wins on the Japan Tour during his career, previously held the course record of 65 at Kasumigaseki Country Club which he set in his opening round at the 2006 Japan Open.