Two-time major winner Rory McIlroy should be allowed to represent Ireland at the 2016 Olympics and not have to make his own mind up about who he plays for, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews says.
Dawson, who played a key role in golf regaining its’ place at the Olympic Games when it was voted back in four years ago, said it was unfair placing the pressure on the 23-year-old Northern Ireland-born golfer to make up his mind.
McIlroy could play for either Britain or Ireland at the Olympics — where golf last featured in 1904.
While Northern Ireland no longer suffers from deadly sectarian attacks, religious tensions still run high and, were McIlroy to choose to represent Ireland, he could face a backlash from the Loyalist community, who are predominantly Protestant.
However, opting for Britain would see him become the possible target of abuse from Republicans, who are predominantly Catholic.
McIlroy told the BBC in January that he might even skip the Olympic Games so as not to cause offense to either side of the sectarian divide.
“Play for one side or the other — or not play at all because I may upset too many people. Those are my three options I’m considering very carefully,” McIlroy said.
Dawson, though, speaking on Tuesday to a select group of journalists, said he hoped that the decision would be taken out of McIlroy’s hands.
“Because of Rory’s history of playing for Ireland at amateur level and at World Cup level there may be a regulation within the Olympic rules which would determine who he would have to play for,” Dawson said.
“We are still looking at the matter, but under that regulation he could play under Irish colors. It’s quite ambiguous, as there are regulations within the IOC [International Olympic Committee] that if you play previous world championships for a certain country that has to carry with you,” he said.
“So the question is, is the World Cup of Golf a world championship and so on? Golf isn’t structured in the same way as it is with other sports, but I would very much like to take this burden of choice away from the player, if possible, because it’s not fair,” he said. “I think Rory has made it pretty clear, and what I have heard privately he is worried about it and the last thing we want is a player worrying about it.”