Golfer Victoria Lovelady bidding to represent Brazil at 2016 Olympics
She hopes the golf course in Rio opens up the sport to all
Her country has plenty of political problems ahead of the Rio Olympics but golfer Victoria Lovelady says Brazil’s “happy culture” will ensure a “good time” Games.
The 29-year-old musician and surfer is one of two Brazilian women chasing a spot in the Olympic golf event.
But while she hopes the Games open up the sport to a new generation, she is aware the nation has more pressing problems than getting people to pick up a club.
The Zika virus outbreak, a crippling recession and a political crisis that may cause President Dilma Rousseff to step down are just some of the controversies hampering the build-up to the Games.
But Lovelady – an accomplished guitarist who is often asked to perform at ladies’ tour events – believes Brazil’s people will win over the world when the global spotlight falls in August.
“I think the most beautiful thing about our culture is that we’re free to be happy,” Lovelady told CNN’s Living Golf.
“I’ve been following the news and a lot of people are against the Olympics because people think we need to invest all this money.
“Socially, economically, our country in terms of infrastructure, education, health, we’re so far behind.”
“Here in Brazil people don’t have much but you can feel in their souls they are happy,” added Lovelady.
“We know how to party. That’s our culture, that’s what we know how to do best, especially Rio, land of carnival.
“I think it can be chaotic, but people are going to have a good time no matter what.”
Lovelady was introduced to golf through her father and grandfather, an internationally acclaimed pianist, who was one of the founding members of Rio’s first golf club, Itanhanga.
But despite her privileged position, she believes an opportunity will be missed if the legacy of the Rio Olympic golf course does not make the sport more accessible in Brazil.
Construction of the coastal course in Rio’s Barra district began back in March 2013, but has been beset by land ownership and environmental issues. It staged its first test event in March this year to favorable reviews, with Lovelady describing it as “one of the best golf courses I’ve played in my life.”
Lovelady, who plays on the Ladies European Tour, says maintaining the controversial course will be the key post-Games and wants subsidized green fees and equipment available to inspire locals to take up the sport.
“Golf is definitely a sport towards the elite, people think golf is expensive,” she said.
“But I think now with the Olympics and the course being the first public course in Brazil, there will be more curiosity, there will be more access. So I hope that can change. The course is going to open many doors for new talents.
“The maintenance is going to be key in order for the course to keep being really interesting. It’s a huge legacy.
“Rio’s already a tourist destination. I think we can add golf to it as well.”
The Olympic golf event, to be played over a traditional 72-hole strokeplay format, will feature fields of 60 in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
The top 15 in the world rankings will qualify automatically, up to a limit of four players per country, with the rest made up of players in the standings from nations without two players already involved.
Lovelady is ranked 60th in the Olympic qualification rankings, two places behind compatriot Miriam Nagl.
“For me, it’s huge,” she said. “It’s been on my mind for more than five years. There are a lot of mixed feelings about it, but I’m really excited as an athlete to be part of it.”