An Evolving (Shark) Experience
TG&T: What aspect of the Shark Experience technology has impressed you the most?
GREG NORMAN: There are so many things I love about it, but from a technology standpoint it's partnering with EZLinks to do the "Shark Key." Once that starts to get adopted, it will be like checking into a hotel where you never have to use cash again. I think that's going to be extremely well received. What's most exciting with this whole project will be actually generating additional revenue for the operators. The golf industry is a tough industry. Margins are very low. For me to be able to say with my hand on my heart that we're giving operators an avenue to generate additional revenues is really important to me. I grew up working in a pro shop, so I knew how tough it was and what it was for the head pro to be successful. So if I can create opportunities for additional revenue, I'm a happy camper.
How fast is the technology used in the Shark Experience evolving?
In the last 12 months the change in technology has been absolutely, incredibly dramatic. It's been a fascinating learning experience for me because the software platform that we have is going to be forever evolving. That's the beauty of it all.
Could the Shark Experience have been introduced earlier or was now the perfect time to combine all the available technology?
I think about that a lot. The virgin space was there but nobody just sat back and took a look at the holistic aspect of it. Say there are 72 golf carts in the cart barn or in the basement of a clubhouse. Those are each like mini-rooms in a hotel with television screens on them. Why not bring in the adaptability of those screens, put speakers in the roof, and incorporate a software platform on the screen. When you boil it down, it was such a simple thought process. But to marry up with Verizon, GPSi, and Club Car, it was a perfect opportunity.
How do you balance all this emerging technology with the fundamentals of the game? Can it detract from the game itself?
Go to my motto: "Your Game, Your Way." You can put as many apps on a device as you want, but you then manage those in the most expeditious way that you want. You get to understand what content you are looking for what notifications you want to get, etc. I think it's going to be managed by the golfers. That's why I like our motto. You can do as much or as little as you want.
What's the difference in satisfaction for you between the success you experienced in your playing career and your business career? Is it comparable?
It's totally different. The satisfaction I got on the golf course was just from my effort: practicing, playing, and winning. With the Shark Experience, everyone shares in it. I've got great partners, like the PGA TOUR. When Jay Monahan came on board there (as commissioner), he took a look at Shark Experience. That would never have happened under Tim Finchem (Monahan's predecessor). What Jay astutely recognized was the out-ofhome market: People either stayed home and watched the PGA TOUR on television from Thursday to Sunday, or they went out and played golf. They never got the chance to do both unless they had the PGA TOUR app. Now they can live stream every PGA TOUR event with the Shark Experience cart. Now you can tune in, play your own game and watch the PGA TOUR. That out-of-home market is going to be studied and wanted by other sporting companies, maybe even the NFL, where people have a decision to make. Stay home and watch a Sport or get out and play the sport while sharing in the experience.
One place the Shark Experience is being tested is Tiburón Golf Club in Naples. That facility hosts the LPGA's CME Group Tour Championship and the QBE Shark Shootout later this year. What do you recall about designing the courses there?
I think the simplicity of the design, which we created on a 600-acre tomato field, stands out. It has been very well received from the players over the years. We never anticipated having any events there, but to see the adaptability of the course to host the best male and female players is something I'm very proud. I'm also proud of the job the guys who worked with there did to create it.
When you started working in the golf industry in Australia more than 40 years ago, could you ever have imagined working on a project like the Shark Experience?
When I was making 28 dollars a week cleaning golf clubs and golf balls out of the pro shop at Royal Queensland Golf Club? Absolutely not! But I've never forgotten that job and if I can give back to the operators an opportunity to increase their revenues, that is important to me. My memories go back a long ways to those days and if I didn't have that opportunity, I wouldn't be here today to give them an opportunity.