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Nicklaus eyes golf as global game

Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus predicts golf will be a game for the everyman and woman.
Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus predicts golf will be a game for the everyman and woman.
  • Nicklaus' professional career lasted more than 40 years
  • He now plays golf only once or twice a month
  • His company, Nicklaus Design, designs golf courses
  • Golf becomes an Olympic sport in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro Games

(CNN) -- Money has changed the game of golf -- and for the better, says Jack Nicklaus.

The golfing legend, who holds the record for the most PGA major tournament wins, heartily approves of the big money that top players command and vast prize pots available to them.

"When we played, we had to play to win, to make a name, so that we could go make a living," Nicklaus told CNN.

"We didn't make a living playing golf. Today... we've got a couple of hundred guys who can actually make a living on the golf course, which is kind of neat. They don't have to go out and do a bunch of other things to be able to take care of their families."

After a professional career that lasted more than 40 years, Nicklaus now plays golf only once or twice a month.

"I'm done playing golf. And my record is there. And do I enjoy it when I play? Yeah sure. I enjoy it when I play. I have fun. But most of my efforts now are basically with my business."

Designing golf courses is Nicklaus' business, and China is a large part of where his company, Nicklaus Design, is finding opportunities.

I'm done playing golf. Most of my efforts now are focused on business.
--Jack Nicklaus
  • Golf
  • PGA Tour
  • Summer Olympics

Talking at Pine Valley, a vast Nicklaus-designed 45-hole course outside of Beijing, Nicklaus believes that China will be home to future champions as well as millions of recreational players.

"I was asked a question when I was here on a trip. And it was before golf became an Olympic sport. And they said, 'Jack, do you ever see a time when you will see a Chinese player maybe be one of the top 10 players of the world?'"

"I said, 'I won't be surprised in 10 or 15 years to see maybe half of the players in the world, come from this part of the world.' Because I do believe that they will. I think you're going to have a tremendous amount of players come from over here."

Nicklaus also believes golf's becoming an Olympic event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 will give the game a boost, especially in countries like China and Brazil that are relatively new to the sport.

"Will the gold medal ever compete with the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open? Well, if you look at it, the rest of the world has never ever really worried too much about those. Now these emerging golf countries, you know what's big in these countries? Gold medals. The gold medal for the Olympics golf will be a major, major event.

"The Olympics are going to change the game from being an elitist sport to being an everyday, everyman's sport."