American golf course designer Gil Hanse said it was "humbling" to have his firm named Wednesday by Rio 2016 Olympic organizers to design the layout for golf's return to the Games after an absence of 112 years.
"It's very humbling and we are incredibly honored to be recognized to design the golf course for the Rio 2016 Olympics," said Hanse, whose firm beat out seven other finalists that included legendary players turned designers Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman.
Hanse, named "Architect of the Year" by Golf Magazine in 2009, spoke about the selection on the eve of the World Golf Championships tournament at Doral on Wednesday, along with Ty Votaw of the International Golf Federation.
Games organizers said they were attracted by his plan's accentuation of the natural dune formations and retention of the natural contours of the site selected for the course in the southern suburbs of Rio de Janeiro
The design also contains a strong legacy component with the prioritising of a golf academy as an essential tool for the development of golf in Brazil.
Hanse, 48, has teamed up with LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott for the project.
They will work with environmental and sustainability engineering firms in the final design process and advocate the use of native vegetation and a minimum of land movement.
Hanse has also committed to relocating to Rio while the golf course is under construction.
Hanse said that when he got the call on Wednesday morning from Rio 2016's Gustavo Nascimento to say his firm had the job "it was all I could do to hold back tears".
"Jim Wagner, my design partner and I, we always just try to keep our heads down and do good work and figure at some point in time somebody will pay attention," Hanse said of the high profile commission.
"We are excited that the jury was paying attention, and we were able to impress upon them that we would be the right fit for the project."
Hanse said the current timeline calls for building to begin in October, after more months spent refining the plans and gaining the required permits and approvals.
"I think as long as we hit the ground in October, the time line that's been articulated is comfortable. It's not great, but I think given that climate, warm season grasses, we should be able to get the golf course up and running by the middle end of 2014, and I believe the schedule that was put out was to have test events in 2015 prior to the 2016 games."