Postcard from Rio: Golf course has a hairy problem

John Niyo
The Detroit News

Paging Carl Spackler.

We’ve got a problem with gophers on the course in Rio.

Not golfers. The little brown furry rodents.

Only they’re not gophers, actually. Nor are they little. They’re capybaras, just like the ones my kids giggle at every time we’re at the Detroit Zoo. And the native South American rodents, which can grow to 150 pounds or more, are the unexpected attraction as golf gets underway Thursday at the Olympics for the first time in more than a century.

The top players didn’t show up. But the capybara are here, dozens freely roaming the fairways and plopping down in the middle of sand traps.

Apparently, this is what happens when you build a golf course in an environmentally-protected coastal nature preserve, plant a bunch of turf grass and ignore the local residents. They get hungry, and they start grazing.

Golf doesn’t really belong in the Olympics. But the capybara do belong here.

For now, they’ll have to coexist.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JohnNiyo