ST. CLOUD -- For the first time since 1904 golf returns to the Olympic games. Sixty men and 60 women from 41 countries will compete for medals in a 72-hole tournament similar to a tour event.

St. Cloud Apollo Boys Golf Coach and St. Cloud Times Golf Columnist John Lieser says golf officials see the Olympics as a way to grow the game...

That's one of the reasons why they want to to make it an Olympic sport. It's a global sport anyhow, as you'll probably see at the Ryder Cup, but one of the primary purposes of this is really to try to grow the game.

However, the top four men golfers in the world won't be going to Rio for various reasons. But, Lieser says the women's game should benefit greatly...

But the women are embracing it. I think the women need Olympic golf more than the men. The men's game, in a sense, is pretty good right now. The women's game is getting exposure and they're really fired up about it.

Lieser says restricting Olympic Golf to just amateurs could benefit the game more than having pros play...

I would probably like to see it go back to just amateurs. I think amateurs would really embrace it more than pros, because pros can get apathetic about this stuff. What do I need that for? I'm not going to go over there. But, if it were strictly amateurs, it might generate a lot more interest because amateurs aren't making any money.

If Tiger Woods was playing in the Olympics, Lieser feels golf would be among the most-followed events...

If Tiger were in the Olympics it would be big time! He is a world-wide corporation unto himself.

The golf tournament gets underway with the men teeing off tomorrow (Thursday) morning. The women's tournament starts Wednesday, August 17th.

(Photo: Getty Images)