Meet The American Man Who Won The First Olympic Golf Title 116 Years Ago

The first Olympic golf champion was never even awarded a gold medal, but that’s just the beginning of his story.

Golf this week is back in the Summer Games for the first time in 112 years. And when Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed tee it up in Rio de Janeiro, they’ll be seeking to become the second American to win the men’s Olympic title.

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The first? Charles E. Sands in 1900, at the Paris Olympics.

The Olympic Golf Course in Rio was built by Gil Hanse especially for the Summer Games. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Sands, the son of a prominent New York businessman, won the Olympic golf title just five years after joining the Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in New York and taking up the sport at age 30.

An accomplished tennis player, Sands had actually reached the finals of the 1895 U.S. Amateur Tournament after playing golf for just three months (losing to the legendary architect C.B. Macdonald 12&11 in the 36-hole final).

Golf was just a part of Sands’ schedule at the 1900 Olympics.

He’d already enjoyed success in Paris, having won France’s highest award for tennis — the Racquette D’Or — in both 1899 and 1900. Sands entered three tennis events at the Paris Games, but ended up losing in the first round of men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles.

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