JapanNaturalizing Slovakia in 2019 thanks to his wife Martina Stofanikova, Rory Sabbatini recently won an Olympic silver medal when representing his wife’s hometown golf in Tokyo 2020.
Sabbatini is a native of South Africa, married Stofanikova in 2014 and then got a second citizenship five years later. Before getting married, he is also an American citizen – settled in South Florida, holds a British passport and has won six PGA Tour championships.
Not long after the wedding ceremony, his wife’s cousin – Rastislav Antala in the “gift story” suggested that Sabbatini should apply for Slovak citizenship because the procedure is not complicated and thereby help promote the country’s golf. At that time, Antala was the Vice President of the Slovak Golf Association. However, the “project” hung for more than three years because the two sides did not promote.
“If you represent Slovakia in the Olympics, what do you think?”, Antala recalled the naturalization at dinner with Sabbatini, who was attending the Honda Classic in March 2018.
At that time, Sabbatini still did not want to naturalize Slovakia – a country with 8,000 golfers and 30 courses. Therefore, in August of the same year, Antala issued “the final blow”.
“It’s urgent. Today is the deadline. If you want to play for Slovakia, you have to complete all the paperwork today,” Martina Sabbatini said of the text in the morning text from her cousin. “We only had about an hour to complete the information,” she said Golf Channel.
“I naturalized Slovakia because I want to help my wife and children in the long term. In addition, her brother is a golf leader, so we think this opens up opportunities to develop this sport, especially young people. My decision. Not for Olympic qualification. I didn’t even know I was eligible,” Sabbatini said after receiving his second citizenship in early 2019.
With the 204th position in the world (OWGR table) at that time, Sabbatini could not enter the South Africa team. But in Slovakia, he’s sure.
Then Tokyo 2020 was one year behind schedule because of Covid-19, the change in the schedule accidentally helped Sabbatini still hold the right to represent Slovakia. He assigned his wife to be a caddy for four days looking for a medal on the East Kasumigaseki court, par71. In the first two rounds, Sabbatini was only mid-range on the overall scoreboard. Out of 54 holes, he is seven strokes behind Xander Schauffele at the top of the table.
But in the final round, the 45-year-old player – the oldest in Tokyo 2020 golf – set an Olympic round record – 61 strokes including 10 birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. This stellar form made Sabbatini the biggest rival for Schauffele, then seven holes behind.
Both had the same score of -17 when Schauffele bogey on the 14th hole. But the US player born in 1993 regained the top spot with a one-stroke advantage with a birdie on the 17th hole. Then, he neutralized the disadvantage after a tee shot into the woods. then keep par on the last hole and get a gold medal at -18. Sabbatini had to receive a silver medal – the first in the history of Slovakian golf. And his wife’s cousin Antala is now the president of the country’s golf association.
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