Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia - yes, Slovakia! - shoots Olympics 18-hole scoring record 61
Rory Sabbatini is representing Slovakia, a nation with only 9,000 registered golfers and 26 golf courses.
Rory Sabbatini celebrated with a fist pump on his birdie putt at 18 for an Olympics 18-hole scoring record of 61 at least three feet before it dropped.
His wife and caddie this week, Martina Stofanikova, was equally elated, lifting her arms to the sky and screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
What a round it was for the 45-year-old Sabbatini, the oldest competitor in the 60-man field, who was born in South Africa and represented Slovakia, the home country of his wife and stepson, in the Tokyo Summer Games.
Sabbatini, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour but without a triumph since the 2010 Honda Classic unless you count the 2019 Slovak Open, attained Slovakia citizenship via marriage to Stofanikova. Her cousin, Rastislav Antal, the current President of the Slovak Golf Association, suggested to Sabbatini that he could take advantage of a bylaw to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter that allows athletes of dual citizenship to represent the nation of their choice.
As a result, Sabbatini wore a golf shirt with Slovakia, a nation with only 9,000 registered golfers and 26 courses, printed in large red lettering on the back of his shirt.
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Sabbatini paired with Trevor Immelman to win the 2003 World Cup for South Africa and his shift in loyalty has been ridiculed on social media channels, most notably by the Shotgun Start Podcast, who dubbed him “the boy from Bratislava.” Sabbatini shrugged off any criticism and explained representing Slovakia as his way of doing his part to grow the game.
“The whole principle about me getting my Slovak citizenship and representing Slovakia is to try and generate interest among the junior golfers and to create future generations of Slovak golfers,” he explained earlier this week.
Sabbatini arrived early in Japan and stayed in the Olympic Village, and tabbed the experience “fabulous.”
“It’s been a great environment to be around all the Slovak athletes and the Olympic team and they have been very hospitable and welcoming and we have had a lot of fun in the team room,” he said on Friday. “Hopefully I’ll give them something to cheer about this weekend and inspire a few new golfers and maybe some desire to be future Olympians in the young girls and boys in Slovakia.”
According to Golf.com, after the Games, Sabbatini is flying to Slovakia, where he is scheduled to visit Trnaya Golf Club, about a 30-minute drive north of the capital city of Bratislava.
He’ll be able to recount arguably the round of his career. Trailing by seven strokes to start the final round, he made 10 birdies and an eagle to offset two bogeys in shooting 10-under 61 at the East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, in Saitama, Japan, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Tokyo. Sabbatini is the clubhouse leader at 17-under 267.
An all-world final round from #SVK Rory Sabbatini.#Olympics #Golf pic.twitter.com/qFdbZCqCyu
— Olympic Golf (@OlympicGolf) August 1, 2021