AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The Golden Bear never won a gold medal.
 
But Jack Nicklaus hopes other golfers get their shot at Olympic gold many, many times after this year.
 
Nicklaus spoke in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday in advance of the U.S. Senior Open, talking about the role he and Annika Sorenstam played in getting golf back into the Olympic program _ the men's tournament, the first at the games since 1904, starts Thursday _ and how he hopes the game stays in the games on a long-term basis.
 
"Would I have loved to have been an Olympian? Would I have loved to play golf in the Olympics? Yes, I would have loved to do that," Nicklaus said. "Even though the pinnacle of your sport may not be that, I think a gold medal would be something I would really treasure. So I may be looking at it differently than other people, but I look at the Olympics as a way to grow the game, particularly in areas where the game is not mature, areas such as Brazil, such as Russia, such as China, such as India, places where the game has barely started."
 
The International Olympic Committee will vote next year on whether golf should stay in the program past 2020. The top four players in the world _ Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy _ aren't in Rio for various reasons, and that might not help golf put its best foot forward in its Olympic return.
 
"The guys today and gals that are playing, I think they'll have a great event," Nicklaus said. "They'll have great fun. One of them's going to walk off with a gold medal which they'll treasure the rest of their lives. And as I say, I would have loved to have been one of those myself, but we never had the opportunity. I hope that they look favorably upon the game of golf next year when they vote again so it goes beyond 2020 and a lot of guys and gals will have the opportunity to try for a gold medal."