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It’s too convenient to attribute the growth of the World Amateur Team to golf being approved as an Olympic sport for 2016. Golf was approved for the Olympics only three years ago, not nearly enough time for some countries to develop a reasonable infrastructure _ golf courses, practice facilities, instruction, corporate involvement and, perhaps most important, a strong middle class.

The numbers have been trending in this direction for the last decade _ 63 teams in 2002 at Malaysia, 70 teams in 2006 in South Africa. And it helps that Turkey is centrally located for some African and Asian nations.

But it illustrates how far golf has come _ and how much more room there is to grow.

“I thought this was a good, inevitable outcome,” said David Fay, the former USGA executive director who spent 30 years working the World Amateur Team. “It confirms the game is going global, in large part because golf is an Olympic sport. There are more countries playing now, and they look at Olympic sports differently than they look at other sports. There’s so much evidence. When tennis became a medal sport (in 1988), that’s when they invested more money in tennis, and you saw what the outcome was _ all the champions produced by the former Soviet Union.”

The first time Fay worked the World Amateur Team was in 1980 at Pinehurst, where he saw a 17-year-old Fijian named Vijay Singh “who couldn’t break 80.” Singh now is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

One of the early concerns was that emerging golf nations might get embarrassed competing against more polished players, and there’s still plenty of evidence. Just last week, Azamat Maksytbekov of Kyrgyzstan made only one par in 54 holes. He had rounds of 128-125-125 to finish 163-over par. Only the top two scores from the three-man teams count, so he was bailed out by his teammates _ Konstantin Surikov was 95 over and Alexey Konev was 117 over.

Macedonia fielded a team for the first time, and 17-year-old Peter Stojanovski opened with a 71 _ the same score (on a different course) as U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox. Stojanovski followed with two rounds in the 80s. Macedonia wound up in 63rd place.

“The original objective when the Eisenhower Trophy began was friendship through sport, and that thread has stayed,” Dawson said. “Teams tend not to stay at the bottom forever. Nobody feels embarrassed. Everyone is very tolerant of the newcomers.”

John Cook played on the 1978 team, when the Americans won just about every year. South Korea finished last among 24 teams, 128 shots behind.

“That tells you the direction of golf and how much it’s grown,” Cook said. “Korea is one of the top countries now.”

There have been some interesting moments along the way.

Fay recalled India having to pull out in consecutive years, the first time in 1982 in Switzerland when the team reached London and its embassy realized South Africa (during the apartheid era) was in the field. “They told their team to go home,” Fay said. Two years later, the India team was practicing in Hong Kong when its prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. Fay was told to find out if the team still planned to play.

“I thought, `This is going to be interesting,’” Fay said. “There were three Hindus and a Sikh on that team. And the first question they asked me was, `Who was responsible?’ I ducked the question. I said, `I’m not sure.’”

Fay looks back fondly at the World Amateur Team. There were stars from the golf-rich nations such as the U.S. (Woods, Jack Nicklaus) and Britain (Colin Montgomerie). There were promising players from smaller countries like what was then Rhodesia (Nick Price).

“It really was the United Nations of golf,” Fay said.

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