Joost Luiten wins court case to represent Netherlands at Olympics after country tries to bar him from playing

Joost Luiten hung up his phone the morning of June 24 disappointed but not surprised after finding out that, despite qualifying, he would not be going to the 2024 Olympic Games.

Luiten, 38, was one of four Dutch golfers — alongside Darius van Driel, Anne van Dam and Dewi Weber — who earned a spot in Paris after meeting the International Olympic Committee’s requirements. All four qualified for their respective men’s and women’s competitions via the International Golf Federation’s rankings. Both fields have 60 players.

But the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation has its own criteria and said it would only send van Dam to Paris. The NOC*NSF said Luiten, van Driel and Weber did not have a reasonable chance to place in the top eight at the Olympics, and had therefore decided not to allow them to compete.

“They basically said, ‘No we’re not sending you, we don’t think you’re good enough,’” Luiten told The Athletic. “That’s basically all I got back from them.”

The Dutch committee requires its men’s golfers to place in the top 27 of the IGF’s rankings and women’s golfers to be ranked in the top 24. Competitors — like van Dam — can also qualify if they finish in the top eight in at least one strong field. Van Dam qualified in November 2023 when she came in second in the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open.

Four days after he got the news, Luiten found a lawyer to bring his case to be independently judged in court. A Dutch judge, after hearing the case Tuesday, ruled in Luiten’s favor. The NOC*NSF was then required to enter Luiten into the Olympic field by 5 p.m. local time that day, the deadline for Olympic entrants.

“I knew the NOC wasn’t a big fan of golf and that they didn’t really understand,” Luiten said. “I was really disappointed. The more I thought about it, the reason why, the more disappointed (I became) and the more unfair (it became).

“I wanted to show them they can’t just do whatever they want. … That’s the good thing about this court ruling, it shows them that they’re not untouchable.”

The judge’s ruling had no impact on the Olympic fortunes of van Driel and Weber. Luiten said he wanted to stand before a judge alone because his case “was the strongest” due to his higher world and Olympic rankings.

At the time of the NOC*NSF’s decision, Luiten was ranked No. 147 in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 40 in the Olympic rankings. Van Driel was Nos. 237 and 49, respectively. Weber was Nos. 302 and 58 in the women’s rankings and van Dam, who initially qualified, was Nos. 108 and 34, respectively.

At the 2020 Tokyo Games, Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini won the silver medal while ranked 161st in the world, and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan took bronze despite being No. 181.

Luiten said he’s been in contact with his good friend van Driel, who understands the two have different standings and results.

Luiten has not been in contact with Weber, he said. It is unclear whether Weber or van Driel brought their cases before a judge or will compete in the 2024 Olympics.

“That’s the hard thing with an individual sport is that everyone has their own results and their own story basically so it’s up to them if they want to take it any further,” Luiten said.

While a win in court and projected entry into the Olympics eases tensions for Luiten, it complicates matters for the IOC, which has to finalize the men’s and women’s fields by July 9. Before Luiten’s court ruling, the last spot in the men’s field was projected to go to Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen (world No. 378), according to multiple reports.

The IOC did not respond to a request for comment.

“All I can do is wait and see what happens,” Luiten said. “At the moment, I expect to be in the Olympics, for sure.”

Despite his world ranking, if Luiten is in Paris for the Games, he is still eyeing a spot at the top of the podium.

“Golf is a strange game. Anybody can win. If I have a good week and a little bit of luck … you can go home with a gold medal. That’s how crazy this game is,” he said.

Despite the unorthodox path to the 2024 Games, Luiten — who also competed during golf’s reintroduction to the Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games — is proud to represent the Netherlands, something he “doesn’t get to do every week.”

“You grow up you want to give something back (to your country). You want to show them what you can do,” Luiten said. “It’s just being proud of your country. That’s what I am and that’s why I show them I can compete in the Olympics in the golf tournament.”

(Photo: Stuart Franklin / Getty Images)

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