For the first time since 1904, golf was played at the Olympic Games this summer in Rio.
Spain's golfing superhero Sergio Garcia took part in the men’s individual tournament and finished in eighth place.
But it was the experience that was far more important to him than the result, he says. Just back from Brazil Garcia is back taking a shot at some poker at EPT Barcelona as he does most years.
Sergio Garcia: Poker is Perfect Getaway
PokerListings caught up with him for a few moments to hear more about how much the Olympic Games mean to him and why poker is the perfect diversion from his day job.
Sergio Garcia: I love the Olympic Games. I’ve always been a huge fan. I really didn’t think I would ever get the chance to play in them.
It was an amazing experience -- not only playing golf but also meeting all these people, watching the opening ceremony, the whole thing.
I used to think that if I ever wanted to be in the Olympics I better start running or play tennis or basketball or something.
PokerListings: We would advise against basketball. [editor’s note: Sergio is 1.78m]There were many controversies around the Rio games – demonstrations, protests, social unrest. Did that affect you?
SG: No. Of course, I had heard about this even before we went there, but for the most part we were staying in the Olympic Village where it was very calm.
There was really nothing extraordinary going on. If you wanted to go somewhere you could without any problems.
Among the golfers this was not a major subject. It can’t be, because when you’re on the golf course you have to be focused on your game and can’t let your thoughts turn away.
PL: Golf seems to be one of the few sports where doping is never an issue.
SG: Well, what can I tell you. There just isn’t much that doping can do for a golfer. We don’t have to run or do much exercise.
Maybe you could argue that playing 36 holes for four days straight is physically demanding and someone might resort to drugs to support his physical strength.
But in Rio we played 18 holes per day and that’s really not too much. It’s a walk in the park for a golf pro.
There is no substance that helps with the technical skills needed in golf.
PL: Let’s talk about poker. Please tell us the story that brought you from the golf course to the EPT Barcelona.
SG: I started playing in 2008 when a friend of mine introduced me to it. I was obviously watching the WSOP coverage, and I was always intrigued by how much I could relate it to golf.
Patience, strategy, focus ... there are many elements the two games have in common. So I started playing poker and enjoyed it a lot.
It’s the perfect way for me to get away from golf for a while. I love football and tennis but getting older makes it tougher to compete.
In poker I know I’m not going to get hurt, unless someone jumps on top of me.
PL: Which is unlikely.
SG: Which is unlikely, yes.
PL: This sounds like you prefer live to online poker.
SG:I played online a little bit but I like live poker more. I’m a competitive person and I find the best competition in live tournaments. That’s where I’m at my best.
Just as in golf you need a lot of patience in tournaments. You have to be able to fold a lot of hands, even good ones if necessary.
I enjoy challenges. That’s why I play.
PL: And how did you get together with PokerStars?
SG: I played a made for TV event in Spain, won a seat to an Estrellas event in Madrid, where I did fairly well, and then a friend of mine – Juan Manuel Pastor, who used to be with PokerStars – introduced me to them and it all went from there.
I built a bit of a relationship with PokerStars and then they invited me to the PCA, which they have done for the last five years now, as well as a couple of tournaments in Spain.
PCA, which they have done for the last five years now, as well as a couple of tournaments in Spain.
It feels good to be able to go to these events.
PL: Are there more golf pros playing poker?
SG: Some of them do, yes. I know a couple of them play poker. Actually, quite a few caddies play, too, but they never win anything (laughs)