Nicklaus gung-ho about golf in India

"I think the Presidents Cup will have an impact on golf in India, and I also think the Olympics will have an impact on golf in India," says Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player the game has seen.

Jack Nicklaus is very confident that golf will continue to grow in India.   -  AP

The PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, is happy that an Indian (Anirban Lahiri) is participating in the Presidents Cup in Incheon.   -  Getty Images

Anirban Lahiri’s presence in the International team and his newly-earned PGA Tour card has attracted a lot of attention this week at the Presidents Cup.

Even as the International team captain, Nick Price, lauded Lahiri and called him an “asset” to the team, two other testimonials for Indian golf came from Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player the game has seen, and Tim Finchem, the Commissioner of PGA Tour, and quite easily the most influential official in world golf.

Nicklaus, whose 18 majors is still the ultimate benchmark in professional golf, and whose name this week’s Presidents Cup venue, the Jack Nicklaus Golf and Country Club, carries is quite gung-ho about golf in India.

Nicklaus, now 75, who is continuing his association with the game through golf course design and other business, has had his name attached to more than 325 golf courses around the world.

On Wednesday, on the eve of the Presidents Cup, Nicklaus, said, “I think the Presidents Cup will have an impact on golf in India, and I also think the Olympics will have an impact on golf in India, as well as in other, what I would call undeveloped golf countries, (with) large populations, India, China, Brazil, Russia, countries that I think will help build the game.

“The biggest problem in India is you have a lot of population and not much land. You try to put a piece of ground together and do a golf course in India, you know you have several hundred owners, landowners; so you’re trying to put a piece together and that makes it very difficult. But I think golf will grow and continue to grow in their country.”

Finchem, addressing the question, said, “We’re delighted that there’s a player from India, who happens to be a very engaging fella, and we look forward to working with entities in India going forward as golf develops there and companies that are interested around the globe.”

The PGA Tour Commissioner also said, “It’s a developing relationship. We have some activity. We are delighted with the interest there is by Indian companies and PGA Tour golf and golf generally.

“We can only do so much to relate to that interest, but now, Indian companies are showing more interest in the market of the United States.

“So we see it as certainly (good); if you go back 15 years, nobody ever came to see us from India. Now they come and talk about golf course development, housing development and also companies that are interested in global markets.”

Talking about other parts of Asia, Nicklaus said, “I think that golf developed first in Asia more in Japan and Korea than other places. China is developing, but it’s a slow process in China. China has probably got 700 or 800 golf courses now.

“As a company, I think we have got about five courses we are doing in Vietnam right now. We’ve got down through Asia, well, actually, Thailand, I did maybe seven golf courses there about 20 years ago.

“I think the game of golf is going to continue to grow in Asia. It goes through cycles and periods where it goes up and down, and some places become very excited about wanting golf and then all of a sudden they sort of slow down and another area pops up.

“But we’re going to see the game continue to grow. Asian people love to play golf. You’ve got good weather for it, you’ve got great population and you’ve got beautiful land in places that sometimes it’s difficult to find, but usually you can always find land for it. I think you’ll continue to see the game grow.”

Finchem said, “It’s just another indication of how golf is growing. It’s also a recognition that we live in a global economy. Everything is interconnected. And it does beg the question about whether golf on a professional level should be organised more in a global fashion to take advantage of those synergies and those dynamics that are changing globally. So we spend more and more time thinking about those things.”