Greats want to build Rio Games course
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, asked to be "global ambassadors" during golf's all-out sales pitch to be part of the Olympics, want to build the course in Brazil where the Olympics will be played in 2016.
Nicklaus said he and Sorenstam have written a letter to the International Golf Federation requesting they be considered as architects of the first Olympic golf course since 1904.
"I think this is a very functional partnership," Nicklaus said. "I hope we can work a deal."
There figures to be no shortage of architects. Henrique Lavie, commissioner of the Tour de las Americas, said last month that already some dozen course design companies have shown an interest.
"There's not a public course in Brazil," said Nicklaus, who agrees with Lavie that it is imperative for the public to have access to the golf course long after the Olympics leave Rio de Janeiro, "even if it's a resort."
Nicklaus said one potential site already has been identified. If selected, he said he and Sorenstam would collaborate on the strategy of each hole -- Nicklaus from championship tees for the men, Sorenstam with women in mind.
"I'll be surprised if they don't select us," Nicklaus said. "But I'm sure other people are interested."
Nicklaus Design has 341 courses open for play in 34 countries, with Nicklaus directly involved in the design of 271 courses. He said with the Olympics only six years away, the IGF would have to make a decision on an architect "pretty quick."
Not so fast, said David Fay, who represents the USGA on the federation. The first step is to find an executive director for the IGF, the group recognized by the IOC. He said officials hope to find one by the end of the year.
Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour's executive vice president of communications and international affairs, is leading the IGF until it hires a director. He said a couple of sites have been considered, but the entire process is in the early stages.
"It's still possible we could use an existing course," Votaw said.
If a golf course is to be built, the IGF would pick the architect, but the host committee in Rio would pick up the cost, much like building a stadium or arena for other sports.
Fay confirmed that IGF members -- representing all the major golf organizations -- received the Nicklaus-Sorenstam letter.
"It was a very nice letter," he said. "When you get a letter from two Hall of Famers, that will get a lot of attention. But there definitely will be a process to go through. Sometimes there's a feeling that you don't want to Americanize the process. We've been very respectful of the fact, as we should be, that it is an international game."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press