20 Minutes With Greg Norman
Greg Norman lives with passion. The world first witnessed that on the golf course where the Australian proved himself the greatest player of his generation. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Norman won 91 tournaments around the planet and reigned as the No. 1 ranked player in the world for 331 weeks.
While still an active player, he founded the Greg Norman Company in 1987 to bring his success on the links to the business world. Now 65, Norman oversees a commercial empire made up of more than a dozen companies covering a range of consumer goods, real estate, golf course design, and other investments.
The same drive that powered Norman from championship golf to successful entrepreneurship directs his philanthropic choices. He consistently involves himself with charities that touch his life intimately, and he doesn’t hold back about his views on those efforts—and how global events affect them.
PENTA:You’re approached by many charities. How do you choose your causes?
Greg Norman: It has to become personal. I feel I have to have a vested interest in some way. For example, with CureSearch for children’s cancer, many years ago I visited a hospital and witnessed a friend of mine operate on a child that would have fit in the palm of my hand. Back then, some 20 years ago, the child cancer mortality rate was more than 70%, and that was devastating to hear. Because I had that sense of connection with children, it caught me in the heart. We’re north of $14 million raised now for CureSearch through our golf event, the QBE Insurance Shootout.
You’re involved with military charities. Do you have a soft spot for veterans?
Whether it’s in Australia or the U.S, I’ve had the good fortune—through the people I’ve known from presidents and prime ministers of the respective countries—to engage with the military. I got involved with the American Australian Association and the Mateship Charity Golf Tournament. We raise money for scholarships to enable children and adults to travel between the countries to study.
Are you connected with Wounded Warriors, also?
Yes, in Australia. Before Covid hit, we were able to connect with Wounded Warriors and arrange for them to send a group down to the course we just completed at Eastern Golf Club outside of Melbourne.
Among all these efforts, is there one that touches you the most personally?
This year, it had to be the Australian Bushfire Relief efforts after seeing what happened down there and how devastating it all was to my homeland and many of my friends down there. We managed to raise about US$2.3 million for fire recovery. I find that when you put the power of your brand and your name behind a cause—and people see that—they get behind it.
Do you think Americans grasped the destruction Australian suffered with the fires?
I’ve found Americans to be the most philanthropic people in the world, without a doubt. Remember the bushfires hit at the same time as the coronavirus, so it was a combination of disasters. Still, America got behind our efforts and sent a lot of money down to Australia to help with our relief fund.
Is there a cause you care about that you think most people don’t realize interests you?
The environment. Wherever we do a golf course or a real estate development, we work with environmentalists to make sure our properties work to the advantage of the venue. Everything from the right grass to the right water to the right sprinklers—it’s all steps we take that no one gets to see because they just walk the golf course and enjoy seeing a tee and a flag.
What kind of effect did Covid-19 have on your work and charity efforts?
The virus affected every aspect of what we do. We have golf course developments all around the world, but I can’t get to them because I’d be quarantined for 14 days coming in there for a week, and quarantined again for 14 days coming back. Every stop would be a five-week commitment. And, many golf courses were closed down during Covid-19—which I think is the single dumbest decision I’ve seen.
Golf is a game played outside in wide open spaces. Still, courses seemed to be an early focus of the shutdown. Why?
They closed all of the golf courses, but left Central Park open. It’s asinine.
I don’t think these politicians had any idea what they were doing, period. I don’t care if you're a Democrat or Republican—these leaders should sit back and look at themselves in the mirror and ask some very serious questions. They’re making political choices about a virus that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with this country and its people. There should be no political bias, but I’m seeing it. I hate what I see, as do so many people in the business world.
You’re based in Florida. With all of the Covid-19 travel restrictions, is there a part of the world you’re missing?
I need to get back to Australia. My father is 93 and was not in good health. I can’t even get to him because of Covid. I tried for months on end to get in there and couldn’t, even though I’m an Australian citizen. He’s recovered somewhat now, and I’m grateful for that—but we had to deal with the worst-case scenario because I just couldn’t be there.
This is the longest time in my life that I’ve been in once place since I was maybe 16. As with many people, it’s been a huge adjustment on my lifestyle, and I look forward to getting back out there again.