By Geoff Shackelford
RIO DE JANEIRO — When Justin Rose holed his short birdie putt on the 18th hole to win Olympic gold in men’s golf, he stood back, celebrated and soaked up the moment.
He also left behind his golf ball.
Arguably the coolest artifact from Sunday’s final day — besides the 18th hole flag claimed by caddie Mark Fulcher — sat in the cup. And sat. And sat.
About 45 minutes after the final putt and medal ceremony, a few British lads ventured out onto the 18th green to pose for photos. One of them looked into the cup. That’s when Brazilian photographer Zeca Resendes, also out doing some final photos and soaking up a magical final round, intervened.
“No, no, no!” he said, waving his credential and barking something in Portugese to the effect of, “that belongs to Justin Rose.” Resendes couldn’t believe his eyes but knew that the flagstick had never been put back in the cup.
Sitting there was a Taylor Made ball stamped with Rose’s signature “99.” It could only belong to the first gold medalist in 112 years.
Resendes took the ball out of the hole and shared it with is Brazilian golf peers, who decided it was a fitting artifact for the Olympic Golf Course clubhouse. After some debate about whether they should offer Rose the ball back, Brazil’s Henrique Fruet said officials figured Rose would be quite pleased with his gold medal. He was right.
Fruet used his special clubhouse access to ask Rose to sign the ball with the idea of displaying it on site.
“I told him it would be exposed here for all to see after the Games and whenever he comes back,” Fruet said.
Rose gladly signed the ball and appreciated the gesture. This priceless piece of golf history now resides with Brazilian Confederation of Golf President Paulo Pacheco until it finds a secure spot in the clubhouse, which begins welcoming the public this October.