Kiwi golfer Danny Lee shares Olympic course with resident capybaras

Kiwi Danny Lee enjoys some time with the locals.

Kiwi Danny Lee enjoys some time with the locals.

Danny Lee won't have shared the golf course with these guys before.

Sitting on the bank of a lake along the fifth fairway of the Olympic Golf Course is a capybara, oblivious to the orange lawnmowers rumbling past or the Kiwi hopeful hitting approach shots during practice rounds.

It just sits there, happy as can be, not a concern in the world, like it owns the place.

It's a capybara on a golf course. Obviously.

It's a capybara on a golf course. Obviously.

Which it does.

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Capybaras are technically a rodent, although you could put a saddle on some.

Around 30 to 40 capybaras call the Rio golf course home, and Lee was pictured with a resident beast on one of the fairways.

Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger also got up close and personal with the rodents.

Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger snap one of the many capybaras who call the Olympic golf course home.

Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger snap one of the many capybaras who call the Olympic golf course home.

They are native to South America and related to guinea pigs, with a barrel body and snub nose and larger hind legs than forelegs.

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They can grow to four feet in length and 150 pounds; a female found in Brazil weighed 201. They can swim and run. They often live in packs of a dozen or more.

They're herbivores but notoriously picky eaters. They are, however, rather fond of Zeon Zoysia, the fairway grass specially designed by Bladerunner Farms in Poteet, Texas, and grown in Brazil for the Olympic course. They also seem to like the SeaDwarf Seaside Paspalum used on the greens.

"The biggest pains in the asses I've ever had to deal with on a golf course," says Neil Cleverly, its British superintendent. "We've given them a gourmet meal compared to what they had before. We've given them breakfast, lunch and dinner. They're eating well."

So at least the environmentalists who so vehemently protested the construction of a $19 million golf course in a coastal nature preserve can't complain about the capybaras, unless obesity is an issue.

The rest of the project hasn't always been so serendipitous, foiled by funding delays, construction delays, tomato-hurling protesters, Brazilian import laws, weeds that kept growing because they weren't allowed to use herbicides and local maintenance workers who kept quitting because they didn't want to spend all day pulling them.

Men's golf makes its return to the Olympics after 112 years when Brazilian Adilson da Silva tees it up on Thursday morning (Brazil time) in the 72-hole strokeplay tournament.

Women's golf makes its Olympic debut six days later on a shorter version of the Gil Hanse-designed course with 79 bunkers, no trees and gusting August afternoon winds that can turn a docile capybara into a bear.

 - MCT


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