Ian Baker-Finch was almost the perfect fit as the first Australian captain of our Olympic golf team when the sport returned in Rio and then again in Tokyo. And the next captain, Karrie Webb, could be an even better option.
Baker-Finch lead both the men’s and women’s teams at both games, and was a part of the suggestion that Webb might take over the women’s team captaincy for the postponed 2020 games in Tokyo being quickly stopped to allow Webb to oversee both teams at the 2024 Olympics held in Paris.
“It’s been a great honour for me to represent Australia,” Baker-Finch said. “It was great to have golf back in the Olympics at Rio and because it was so successful there it was immediately voted in to continue in Tokyo.
“Karrie I am so honoured to be able to say welcome to the Olympic family. I have often said when people ask me who the best golfer from Australia is and people expect me to say Greg Norman or Peter Thomson, but I always say Karrie Webb. To have Karrie as a hall of famer and our best player leading the team to Paris, you couldn’t have a better person or a better golfer.”
Webb will also lead Australia’s top amateur women at the same venue, Le Golf National, later this year.
A seven-time major winner, Webb admitted playing in the Olympics in 2016 was initially her goal when golf returned to the competition, however, was knocked out of contention for a team spot by two players who had previously being Karrie Webb Scholarship winners.
RIGHT: Baker-Finch twice led the Aussie team at the Olympics and has gladly stood aside for Webb, who he calls "Australia's greatest golfer": PHOTO: Scott Halleran/Getty Images.
“I grew up looking up to Finchy and remember him winning the Open Championship in 1991, so it is great to take over from him. I know he is a passionate Aussie and did a great job in Rio and Tokyo and look forward to taking over from him,” Webb told an assembled group of Australian media on Friday.
“Going back to when the IGF was formed and getting golf into the Olympics I was a part of that. For me it really set my sights to extend my full-time playing career to be on that team in 2016. Ironically, I was pipped out of that team by two of scholarship winners, but couldn’t haven been happier for Minjee (Lee) and Su (Oh).”
“I grew up looking up to Finchy and remember him winning the Open Championship in 1991, so it is great to take over from him. I know he is a passionate Aussie and did a great job in Rio and Tokyo and look forward to taking over from him.” - Karrie Webb.
Another of her scholarship winners, and a fellow major winner, Hannah Green joined Lee in Tokyo and while Webb acknowledged she knows the women likely to represent Australia very well, she will now set out to make more of an effort to get to know our top men.
“I am just happy to be in the fold and be a part of Olympic process,” she said. “And to help at least four Aussie realise their Olympic dreams.”
Webb admitted like many that she would like to see the format for golf at the Olympics with men and women playing together in some sort of mixed element moving forward, however, Baker-Finch’s knowledge of the inner workings saw him refer to the popularity of the existing format for ratings. And an unlikely change coming soon.
Webb, like Finch, had the opportunity to carry the Olympic flame in Sydney before the 2000 games, an experience she called “the coolest thing she has done away from the golf course”. And as one the proudest Aussies representing the country overseas she is sure to do an excellent job. Not ruling out continuing in the role beyond Paris, but conceding the 10 years until the Brisbane games in her home state might just be a bit out of reach.