Trump woos Turkmen strongman with Jack Nicklaus ties

 Jack Nicklaus (Getty)
Jack Nicklaus (Getty)

Ashgabat - US President Donald Trump has namechecked "friend" and golf legend Jack Nicklaus in a congratulatory note to the strongman leader of Turkmenistan, state media in the Central Asian nation said on Wednesday.

Government mouthpiece Neutral Turkmenistan reported Trump sent a "message" to authoritarian ruler Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to congratulate the country on the spring equinox holiday of Nowruz, which is celebrated in the second half of March. 

"My friend Jack Nicklaus, who recently returned after his visit to Ashgabat, told me a lot about the beauty of Turkmenistan and the warm hospitality of the Turkmen people," the Russian-language newspaper quoted Trump as saying.  

"The American people and our business circles will continue to explore new areas for further development of cooperation with Turkmenistan."

The US embassy in Turkmenistan did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the congratulations. 

Turkmenistan, a gas-rich country of more than five million people, regularly features at the bottom of rights rankings published by international advocacy groups. 

Nicklaus, a vocal supporter of Trump who is regarded as one of the greatest golfers ever, is currently building a golf club near capital city Ashgabat with his company Nicklaus Design.  

The club, which will be the first of its kind in Turkmenistan, is set to be completed ahead of the Fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that the city is hosting in September. 

Trump himself is a regular golfer and famously teed off at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe in February.

Nicklaus, whose nickname is "the golden bear" has said in the past that his company has built golf courses for Trump. 

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