01/09/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/09/2019 16:54
HONOLULU, Hawaii - Rory Sabbatini says his decision to become a Slovakian citizen is to support his wife and stepson and to further the sport of golf in the small nation, not to chase an Olympic dream.
The South African born six-time PGA TOUR winner now has both American and Slovakian citizenship as he supports his wife Tina's family wish to further golf in her home nation.
Tina's cousin Rastislav Antala is the Vice President of the Slovak Golf Association and harbors a passion for youth golf.
He saw an opportunity to use Sabbatini as the new face of the sport given Petr Valasek is the next highest ranked player from the country at 1930th in the world.
It had been previously reported the decision was to give Sabbatini an easier path to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
Only two players for each nation can qualify (up to four if they are inside the top 15 in the world) with the field capped at 60.
At the moment the 60th player would be Jose de Jesus Rodriguez from Mexico who sits 330th in the world.
Sabbatini, who currently ranks 201st in the world, is now sitting in the 49th slot for the Olympics.
'This decision was never made to play in the Olympics. This decision was made to one support my wife and stepson, getting my citizenship, and two to open the door for golf development in Slovakia,' Sabbatini said at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
'The Olympics or anything else was never the focus of it. I actually didn't even know I'd be eligible for the Olympics. I thought you had to be in the top 200 in the world and at that point I was like 450th.
'The added benefit is her cousin is the director of golf development in Slovakia we thought this is an opportunity to bring more kids into the game of golf because they really haven't had exposure on a international stage to have someone to follow in golf.
'This is an opportunity to maybe open the door to getting some interest among young kids and maybe getting the government involved to start supporting a program for development.'
When he tees it up at the Sony Open in Hawaii tomorrow for the 21st straight year, Sabbatini will be the first Slovakian to play on the PGA TOUR.
The 42-year-old is twice a runner up at Waialae Country Club but hasn't won on TOUR since 2011.
While he says the Olympics is not a driving factor, he would indeed play in Japan if he qualified.
'If I started to perform and was able to qualify for Olympics great, so be it,' he said.
'If things happen to fall the way that would be fantastic. Golf being back in the Olympics is a great advantage for golf all over the world. I just truly hope that we can get the program to really develop in Slovakia and if the Olympics would happen to boost it that would be fantastic.'