(04/30/2007)– Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, making a special appearance at the inaugural Pine Valley Beijing Open, believes that the future of golf lies in Asia.
Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 Major titles during his illustrious career, said that the Asian Tour will continue to grow and expects the standard of play to rise in tandem.
The Golden Bear was in Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club to attend the club’s phase II course opening ceremony and conduct a junior clinic, held in conjunction with US$500,000 ($757,650) Pine Valley Beijing Open, reported Asiantour.com.
‘The Asian Tour will continue to grow and Asian players will continue to get better,’ said Nicklaus.
‘Asia is the place where the most growth will come from, and there will be more young players being introduced to the game here than in any other place, by comparison to what we have seen in the past.
‘It is a relatively new game here in Asia and I’m confident the growth will be good in this region,’ added Nicklaus, who designed the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus II Links Course at Pine Valley, the venue for this week’s event.
Nicklaus, 67, added that the standard of the game in Asia will grow steadily as playing opportunities increase.
However, he feels that the Asians must spread their wings to compete at the highest level.
‘Asian players can improve if they keep playing tournaments across the world and compete against the best. That’s how to be the best,’ said Nicklaus.
‘The world is getting smaller. Now the Asian Tour has events with the European Tour and I think this is a big step in making the world smaller as the game is becoming more global.’
With a staggering 73 PGA Tour victories under his belt, Nicklaus commended the achievements of Asian Tour-bred players – including China’s Zhang Lianwei, Korea’s Charlie Wi and former stalwart Choi Kyung Ju – and he is confident that with the continued expansion of the Asian Tour, more Asians will break through onto the big stage.
‘I have seen a lot more good players now than from the time when I was playing,’ he added.
‘I have seen good Japanese and Korean players like Charlie Wi, KJ Choi and even Kevin Na. We have Zhang, who was the first Chinese to play in the Masters.
‘It just shows that the game is going to continue to grow in Asia. It’s not going to stop.’
Nicklaus emphasised the fact that it is important for emerging golfing nations in Asia to have golf icons to help boost the interest and steer the country in the right direction in the development of the sport.
‘A country should also have people to look up to and this applies to golf in Asia as well,’ he said.
‘We have to have heroes and people to follow. If we look at Bernhard Langer and how he affected the game in Germany, now newcomer Lorena (Ochoa) and what she is doing with the game in Mexico, and Gary Player for South Africa, it’s the same thing.
‘Every country, no matter what region, needs golfing icons.’
Source – Beijing Open