South African professional golfer Jaco Van Zyl is excited for the opportunity to represent his country at this month’s 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Golf is to be played at the Olympics for the first time since 1904, as it has been reintroduced to the games alongside sevens rugby for the 2016 games.
However, due to concerns over the widespread Zika virus in Brazil, numerous top players have withdrawn from the Olympic golf tournament, decimating the field of competitors.
The list of players who will not be present in Rio include Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson, amongst many others.
From a South African perspective, top golfers Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen will not be taking part in the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.
Van Zyl will hence be South Africa’s best ranked golf pro going for gold at Rio 2016.
His commitment to the Olympics is visible in the fact that he decided to withdraw from both The Open Championship and the USPGA Championship in order to focus exclusively on his performance at Rio 2016.
Despite the wide lack of participation attributed to the Zika virus, Van Zyl believes that players are using the mosquito-borne illness as an excuse, as the virus is also present in parts of the US.
“Honestly, I can’t feel that the Zika virus would be their reason not to go, the Zika virus is in Florida,” Van Zyl said, according to SuperSport.
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“I think they have got other reasons for not wanting to participate and the Zika virus is a very convenient way for them to get out of it,” he added.
The men’s golf event at Rio 2016 will take place between 11-14 August, and Van Zyl feels honoured to be able to take part on behalf of his country.
“If I can choose one (a major championship win or an Olympic gold medal) I would definitely take the gold. The reason being that there are four majors every year and one Olympic gold medallist in 112 years,” he explained.
“To get an opportunity and let it pass by doesn’t make much sense to me. I personally feel every opportunity you get to represent your country is a great privilege,” the South African concluded.
Team SA will have a four golfers taking part in the Olympic Games, with Paula Reto and Ashleigh Simon taking part in the women’s tournament, while Brandon Stone and Jaco Van Zyl compete in the men’s competition.