Golf will be a part of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the first time since 1904, and a Willistown man has been chosen to design the course.
On Wednesday, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee announced that Gilbert Hanse had been chosen as the designer. Hanse beat out hundreds of other candidates, including a group of eight finalists that included golf legends like Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.
Hanse Golf Course Design, based in Willistown, has been in business since 1993. When the news broke that his company had been selected for the Olympic course, Hanse was in Miami, renovating a course owned by Donald Trump. He told the Associated Press that he was honored, humbled and "a little bit stunned by the whole thing."
Andrea Lynch, who has worked as an office manager at Hanse Golf Course Design for eight years, called it an incredible accomplishment to prevail over such formidable competition. Besides the professional golfers, the finalists included major course designers like Gary Player and Robert Trent Jones II.
"For a smaller company to have beaten out these incredible pros and longstanding, huge companies is really an amazing feat," Lynch said. "Gil is very environmentally conscious, and he takes the land the way he finds it. He’s not one to use all kinds of tricks, and I believe that that’s probably what impressed them."
On his company's website, Hanse explained the philosophy behind his design:
We will strive to produce a course that will maximize the benefits of the site while creating an identity that is in keeping with the natural terrain, vegetation and wildlife indigenous to what we believe will be transformed into a “picturesque” landscape which will make the people of Rio proud.
Even the competition respected the choice, according to the Associated Press:
"I give the Olympic Committee a lot of credit," four-time major champion Phil Mickelson said at the Cadillac Championship in Florida. "Because it would have been easier to go with a big name and instead, they went with the best. I thought that was pretty cool."
The AP article also included some details about the project:
Hanse said construction on the course, which will include features similar to Royal Melbourne, is expected to begin in October and end by mid-2014. Tests events are expected in 2015.
Hanse and his team will be paid $300,000 for the design of the Olympic course, which will host a 72-hole stroke-play event for men and women with 60 players in each field. Local organizers will handle the cost of building the venue.