LONDON • Tim Finchem, the outgoing head of the PGA Tour, believes golf's showing at the Olympics will be sufficient to see the sport retained in the Games for the "long term".
A wave of bad publicity, instigated in part by the refusal of a number of high-profile players to appear in Rio, preceded golf's Olympic return after a 112-year absence.
With the sport factored in only for the Games of 2016 and 2020, there has been a widespread view that it could be dropped from the schedule.
Yet Finchem, who was a key part of the lobby for golf's inclusion, insisted on Tuesday that such fears are unfounded. "The question mark was having some players that didn't want to play," he said.
"But I had an interesting conversation with Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, over in Rio. He came to our venue, he spent an hour and a half to two hours around the property. He was blown away. I think we were the only sport that was sold out. He was blown away by the galleries.
"Now they (the players who didn't attend) understand the power of being an Olympian, of being able to compete on this stage, of being able to interface with these wonderful athletes from all over the globe.
"Just ask the players who did go. It was a game-changer in their minds."
A decision on golf's future is expected before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The men's and women's champions in Rio were Britain's Justin Rose and South Korea's Park In Bee respectively.
"We can expect mammoth galleries in Japan," Finchem said.
"We played the World Cup there in 2001, and if you just look at the footage, thousands and thousands and thousands of people came out.
"So it's going to be a big event in Japan and I think golf is there for the long term. I think we're going to be fine in the fabric of golf."
Finchem, who is preparing to step down at the end of the year, said he regretted that the PGA Tour has not expanded more globally during his 22-year tenure as commissioner.
"We've done a lot of great things globally. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more acceleration there but... there were other factors at work that impacted that situation globally," the 69-year-old said.
Under Finchem's watch, the PGA Tour created the Presidents Cup - a biennial Ryder Cup-style event pitting the United States against an International team of players from the rest of the world excluding Europe - and has staged a few tournaments outside the United States.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS