Norman: $38 Job Made Me Into The Shark
Candid legend opens up on love, life and gives his advice to Aussies.
Greg Norman has revealed how a $38 a week job in Brisbane set him up for life, lifted the lid on the romance that has made him young again and warned Australia of the global consequences of our revolving door of prime ministers.
The Great White Shark, who is heading home to spend Christmas with his parents on the Sunshine Coast, also revealed that although he is personally leading the rebuild of his $70 million-plus mansion in the US, he is still dreaming of moving back to Queensland.
A force of nature on the golf course for more than two decades, a trailblazing entrepreneur and confidant of world leaders, the Mt Isa-born legend has laid bare his extraordinary life in a wide-ranging exclusive interview to mark the The Sunday Mail’s Queensland Sport’s 100 Greatest countdown.
His sporting legacy has never just been winning two British Opens and more than 90 tournaments worldwide.
It was the way that he won them, and lost others, with the controlled violence with the driver, his go-for-it game, the conquering Viking look of his prime and one of sport’s great monikers.
Norman now plays golf just “five or six times a year” because his biggest wins of the past 20 years have been measured in boardrooms for The Greg Norman Company which has punched his net worth to between $300-$500 million.
Love Of His Life
Aged 63 and famously super-fit, Norman said that his third wife Kirsten, a glamorous Aussie interior designer with a strong personality, had redesigned him – by knocking down some of the defensive mechanisms of his personality.
“She has brought me back to my younger days,” he said.
“I was stuck in a box without compatibility in life for a while. I regressed. I became a little bit jaded and was very quick to put up walls around me.
“Kirsten helped identify that, and I’m nowhere near that way to the degree I was many years ago.
“To embrace every journey we’ve been on together with such passion and love, it’s been incredible to feel that,” he said.
The couple are now are re-building their palatial property on Florida’s Jupiter Island where Grammy-winner Celine Dion was a near-neighbour until selling her house last year.
“My wife and I always wanted to build our own house together,” he said.
“We were very fortunate to have this magnificent estate and started the plan to bring it back to life.”
The lessons for life learnt in his old $38-a-week job in the Royal Queensland pro shop in the 1970s still pulse through Norman, the driven empire builder.
His pro shop boss Charlie Earp grooved a world-beating golf swing and much more.
“Charlie taught me work ethic, get in, DIN and DIP. ‘Do it now’ and ‘do it properly’ is great advice to this day,” Norman said.
“The 38 bucks a week job in the pro shop enabled me to get where I am today.
“In a nutshell, the most poignant statement ever said to me as a kid, not knowing where I’d end up in the world of golf and the world in general, came from Charlie Earp. “He said, ‘no matter where you go in the world, never forget you carry the flag of your state and country on your back’.”
Norman proudly represents Australia and his deep Queensland roots in everything he does, right down to the Wagyu steak on the menu at his Australian Grille in South Carolina.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to import Wagyu beef out of Queensland.
‘‘It’s called the Aussie Grille, right, so you try to keep it as authentic as you can,” Norman said with pride.
Bats signed by Sir Donald Bradman and Allan Border, as well as Wallabies and AFL football jerseys, have pride of place among Aussie sporting memorabilia at his home, and he turned up at his golf club fancy dress party in Florida last year as Crocodile Dundee.
Unsurprisingly, he only had to buy the vest and arm-band because he had the broadbrimmed hat, the jeans, the boots and tanned 60-something abs to pull it off with his hybrid Aussie-American accent.
Norman’s connections to the globe’s most powerful were never more evident than when he helped Malcolm Turnbull become the second world leader to get a phone call with Donald Trump after the maverick billionaire’s bombshell US election victory.
Declaring he’s been “fortunate to know a small percentage of what goes on” in politics and international business, Norman gently warned Australians of the consequences of the country’s revolving door of prime ministers. “The perception around the world is how can a country go through so many different leaders in a very short period of time and have consistency, sustainability and so on,’’ he said. “If you’re a leader of an Asian nation and you’re dealing with a Prime Minister who has been there six months, it’s just got to be more difficult to sit at the table and negotiate a long-term trade policy.
‘‘The country should not be allowed to be overrun by nay-sayers. I’d say to Australians, sit back take a look how lucky you are in so many ways and not be so critical on certain things,’’ he said. “Australia has such a wealth of resources, and I’m talking about expertise in education and medical research as well, so you always want a great country to make the most of it.
“This is probably the most sensitive comment I’ll make.”
Norman will be Down Under within weeks and while he hankers for a more permanent return to Australia, said only time would tell if it became a reality.
“It’s always been my aspiration to do that and, of course, I’d love to spend more time in Australia,’’ he said.
“I want to see my parents, who are not getting any younger, as much as possible.”
He will be visiting dad and mum, Merv and Toini, on the Sunshine Coast for the festive season.
“I’m a Sunshine Coast man, Noosa all the way down to Peregian,’’ he said.
“There’s something so clean and crisp about it.
“I know it has changed over time in terms of architecture, with old homes going but there is something really cool about the coffee shops, walking around Noosa, Noosa National Park and that part of the world.”