Golf first made its Olympic debut during the Games of the 2nd Olympiad in Paris, France, in 1900. It was a game of many firsts, as not only was it the first time women joined the Olympic Games, it was also the first time an American woman—in the person of Margaret Abott of the Chicago Golf Club—won a gold medal.
The sport, however, was not to last in the Games for long, because it made its last appearance in St. Louis, Missouri, during the Games of the 3rd Olympiad. Even then, the women’s individual event was replaced with a team event for men.
Thus, golf’s return this summer during Games’ 31st edition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was met with much excitement. Not only is golf making a comeback, the American Golf team—the most decorated in the Olympiad—is also returning after a 112-year absence.
This year, these three American women pro golfers are set to compete in the Games:
A talented player even as teenager, Lexi Thompson set number of records early on. In 2007, at age 12, she qualified to play in the U.S. Women’s Open, thus gaining the distinction of being the youngest ever golfer to qualify for the LPGA’s oldest major championship. During the same year, she also became the second-youngest winner in the American Junior Golf Association, in addition to becoming the youngest winner in the history of Junior PGA Championship. After winning four matches at the 2010 Curtis Cup, she was encouraged to turn professional in June, at a time when she was just 15 years old.
In September 2011, Lexi set another record when she became the youngest player ever to win an LPGA tournament after she took home the Navistar LPGA Classic trophy. She would go on to win 6 more LPGA titles, with the most recent one being the Honda LPGA Thailand in February 2016. She is currently ranked 4th in the Women’s World Golf Rankings (Rolex Rankings).
Joining the Olympic Games is really a big thing for Lexi. She told Golf Magazine that “winning gold would be bigger than anything I’ve done in my life.” She added that if ever she wins a gold medal, she’d probably cry because she’s really that passionate when it comes to representing the United States.
Another American who’s going to try to go for gold at the Rio Olympic Games is current Rolex Rankings number 11, Stacy Lewis.
As part of the University of Arkansas’ women golf team, Stacy won 12 collegiate events and established herself as a four-time All-American. Between 2006 and 2007, she was named Golfweek and Golf Digest Women’s Amateur Player of the Year. She was also the 2007 NCAA Division I National Champion and the 2008 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
Stacy was part of the successful 2008 US Curtis Cup team, emerging to become the first player in the cup’s history to go 5-0. The United States enjoyed a 13-7 win during the competition, which was Stacy’s last event as an amateur.
She turned professional in June 2008 and earned medalist honors at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. It wasn’t until 2011 that she had her first official victory at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, a major tournament. She defeated then Rolex Rankings number 1 Yani Tseng by three shots, propelling her career earnings to over $1 million. Since turning professional, Stacy has had 11 LPGA Tour wins, including another major, the Women’s British Open, in 2013. She has been world number 1 for several weeks in 2013 and 2014, and is currently ranked number 7 in the Rolex Rankings.
Speaking to Us Weekly, Stacy expressed her excitement over being in the Olympics, saying that the chance to represent one’s country and to be surrounded by excellent athletes from all over the world would be a totally unique experience. “On the golf course, it would be a similar feel to the format we deal with playing on Tour, but the chance to earn a medal at the end of the week will make it extra special,” she said.
One unexpected entrant to the Rio Olympics’ US golf team is Gerina Piller, who climbed back into the Rolex Rankings’ Top 15 just in time to assure her a spot on the team.
Nevertheless, the Roswell, New Mexico, native told the USA Today that she’s looking forward to playing in the Games. “I come from a small town, and it’s quite an honor to be able to represent your country,” she said.
Early in her amateur career, Piller established herself as a decorated collegiate golfer from the University of Texas El Paso, winning four tournaments as a senior in 2007 and being awarded with the university’s Female Athlete of the Year award. She was also the 2007 Conference USA Individual champion.
Gerina turned professional in September 2007 and competed at the Symetra Tour (previously known as the Duramed FUTURES Tour) in 2009, where she recorded seven top-10 finishes. In 2009, she also established a career-best tie for second during the iMPACT Classic and the USI Championship. In 2013 she posted eight top-10 finishes, which included a career-best runner up at the CME Group Titleholders. Then, in 2015, she competed at the Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft, finishing second to Lexi Thompson. She also joined the US Solheim Cup team and posted a 3-0-1 record.
For the latest updates from Rio, visit the Swing Control blog.