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Gil Hanse selected to design 2016 Olympic golf course

Gil Hanse design for 2016 Olympic golf course

SAO PAULO - American architect Gil Hanse will design the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro, winning selection on Wednesday over Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Gary Player.

Organizers picked Hanse Golf Design over seven other finalists. Hanse will team up with Hall of Fame player Amy Alcott to build the first Olympic golf course since the sport was dropped following the 1904 St. Louis Games.

"I'm still a little bit stunned by the whole thing," Hanse told The Associated Press by phone from Miami. "We are obviously very honoured, very humbled by the selection. It was a thrill just to be in the competition with these great designers. I'm excited that the selection panel felt that our efforts were the ones that best matched the criteria set by organizers."

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The Rio 2016 committee said Hanse Golf Design was "the candidate that most aptly met the selection criteria" issued by organizers, proposing a strong legacy component that prioritized a golf academy to help the sport's development in Brazil.

"Hanse Golf Course Design tackled the challenge of designing a course for use by both elite and amateur athletes, one of the main legacy objectives," the committee said in a statement. "It addressed the environmental sustainability directives for the games and efficiently conformed to the building restrictions on the land."

The committee said that Hanse's proposal "also effectively integrated native vegetation to the design, reducing the areas where frequent maintenance will be required."

Hanse said their "respect for the land" made the difference.

"We like to build golf courses that are very environmentally sensitive," he said.

Golf made its debut at the second modern Olympics in Paris in 1900, but lasted only one more games. It was reinstated in 2009 and is guaranteed to be at the 2020 Games, but a good impression in Rio would help keep the sport in the games beyond that.

Another IOC vote on adding or removing sports is scheduled for 2017.

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"The selection process adopted by Rio 2016 was extremely thorough and reflected the importance of the project," International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson said.

Hanse Golf Design was created in 1993 and built the Castle Stuart course that hosts the Scottish Open. Hanse also built the course at the Boston Golf Club, and last year completed the renovation of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club. He was recently hired by Donald Trump to help renovate the Blue Monster course in Miami.

Alcott won 29 times on the LPGA Tour, including five major titles.

The other seven companies which made the final shortlist were Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hawtree Ltd., Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson-Perret Golf Course Architects.

Nicklaus was set to team up with women's great Annika Sorenstam, while Norman had a partnership with the retired player Lorena Ochoa.

The winner was announced as delegates from the International Olympic Committee made a three-day visit to Rio to receive updates on the city's preparations.

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"As it marks the return of golf to the Olympic Games after over a century of absence, this course represents the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport," Rio 2016 Olympic committee president Carlos Nuzman said. "It will enable Rio to host important events in the international calendar and it will be an example of sustainability and preservation of an environmentally protected area."

The committee said Hanse's proposal effectively addressed the planning of temporary overlay structures and internal flow systems for the venue, and considered the location of permanent buildings and the experience of players and spectators.

Hanse hopes to have a course similar to Royal Melbourne with construction expected to begin in October and completed by the middle of 2014. Tests events will likely be scheduled for 2015. After the 2016 Games, the course will be used as a public facility.

"It's difficult to compare landscapes, but I think sort of the sand belt of Australia would be a good one to look at as far as that type of vegetation and certainly that style of architecture," he said.

The course will be built at the Reserva de Marapendi in Barra, about 3 miles (5 kilometres) from the athletes' village and 4.3 miles (7 kilometres) from the main press centre and the international broadcast centre.

The designers made their final presentations to organizers last month and the winner was chosen by a selection committee comprised of Nuzman, Dawson and other local games' representatives.

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