By Jugjet Singh
LEGENDARY golfer Jack Nicklaus feels that the game in Asia has received a tremendous boost after it was included in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Nicklaus, in Malaysia for the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, said while he missed out on an Olympic medal, the present generation will benefit from its inclusion.
"I see a great movement in China and India, as well as Russia who are traditional gold medallists in Olympic sports," said Nicklaus yesterday.
"Now, there will be more government funding for golf in these countries which have large populations but a small golfing fraternity. And I see more people taking up the sport with the funding, and ultimately, golf will be the winner."
The movers and shakers of the golf industry are in Kuala Lumpur for a two-day conference on how to spur the growth of the sport in the Asia Pacific region.
While the selection process is yet to be announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Nicklaus hopes it will not eliminate the fun by selecting only the top-60 in the world.
|Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus is in Malaysia for the Asia Pacific Golf Summit. — Pic: Aizuddin Saad|
"The idea now is to have 60 men and 60 women golfers in the Olympics but how they will be selected has yet to be decided," added Nicklaus.
"I guess rankings will play a big role, but to take the top 60 in the world and play another tournament will not serve the purpose of developing golf around the world.
"My opinion is that the top 30 in the world should be selected, while the remaining 30 will be qualifiers from regional tournaments.
"This way, outsiders will also have a chance to play for an Olympic gold."
Nicklaus holds the distinction of winning 18 major titles in his career, the last being the 1986 US Masters at the age of 46, thus becoming the tournament's oldest champion.
"Today, I am more into designing golf courses than playing as I don't like scores of 75-80. Also, my grandchildren post better scores than me now," quipped Nicklaus.
But on a more serious note, Nicklaus said Asian golfers will catch up and soon may have five players in the world's top-10.
"I see a major growth here (in Asia) and my business of designing courses is basically 90 per cent in this continent," he said.
"In the near future and with the push that the Olympics provide, I believe Asia will have maybe five players in the top 10 bracket."