• An Interview With Greg Norman

    Greg Norman opens up with TCPalm.com golf writer Craig Dolch on FOX ouster, Medalist Golf Club, life, Tiger and Trump.

    • Greg Norman

    The Jupiter Island/Martin County resident and founder of The Medalist club in Hobe Sound may have lost his analyst's job earlier this year with FOX Sports, but he stays busy designing golf courses around the world and running his Great White Shark Enterprises. He maintains the same passion in business he used to win 20 PGA Tour titles, including two British Opens, and 90 events around the world.

    TCPalm.com golf writer Craig Dolch recently spent time with Norman and asked him about the FOX job, what he thinks of Donald Trump as a golfer and possible president, whether he's selling his Jupiter Island mansion, if he will ever kiss and make up with the Medalist membership now that former club president De Mudd is gone, how much he misses competitive golf, what he thinks of Tiger Woods' chances of returning to dominance and does he feel 61.

    Here is Dolch's exclusive interview with Norman:

    Q: Now that you've had some time to reflect on FOX Sports' decision to move on without you, what do you think was their reason?

    A: I have no idea what happened there. I guess I just didn't get along well with the producer (Mark Loomis). I didn't see eye to eye with the producer. To say I was not prepared was a bunch of baloney. I had stacks of info on the top 20 players in the world and the guys I thought would be in contention. I walked with (USGA executive director) Mike Davis in the morning for the setup and the hole locations. He said I was the first one ever to do that with him.

    I felt like I had handcuffs on me. I told them that quite a few times. I wanted to do a story on why the greens at Chambers Bay were so bad, but that didn't happen. When I was going through negotiations, the USGA said it was so excited because I was a course designer and I could talk about agronomy. I never had a chance to do that. They hired someone else to talk design and agronomy (architect Gil Hanse).

    It irritates me the way FOX misrepresented what happened. I'm not ranting or raving. The reason they said they let me go was I was unpredictable. I said to them, 'I'm what?' I thought that's what an announcer is supposed to be.

    Q: Have you ever played golf with Donald Trump and how do you think he would do as our president?

    A: I have played golf with Trump many times and I've known him more than a decade. He's passionate about the game of golf. There's no question he loves the game or he wouldn't have spent the amount of money he's spent on golf courses around the world. He's acquired a few courses that I've built.

    As a politician, he has stirred up the base of America. A lot of people wish they could say what he's saying. I've been fortunate enough to know a few presidents. A lot of what you say on the campaign trail to get to be president can't be enacted once you get into the oval office. You can't just throw pixie dust in the air and it will solve everything. I get so disappointed for America when I travel the world and you hear the comments people make about the debates. 'Why is all this hatred in America when people aren't trying to solve the problem?' It's a sad indictment. I can feel the angst. It becomes emotional instead of who's the best to do the job.

    Q: A lot of golf companies have struggled in recent years, but you have kept Great White Shark Enterprises successful and growing. How have you done that?

    A: I made a conscious effort to change the direction of the company. GWSE was a marketing company for many years because I was a player. As I started to develop the business, I knew I had to make a transition. It's not an easy thing to do. I slowly started to change the foundation of the company. Not many people noticed it, and that's the way I wanted it. I wanted it to stay private.

    It's an operations business - a lot of things outside of golf, but they still pertain to golf. I sold the production company because I felt like we hit the ceiling. Our company became younger. I've got a group of 30-year-olds who buy into my vision. I give a 30-second idea that creates 30 months of work. I'm making sure we are all drinking the same Kool-Aid. It's a lot different than just signing a contract and putting a name on your bag. Building a business takes years and years.

    Q: You almost moved your business from West Palm Beach to south Martin County. There's also reports your putting your mansion on Jupiter Island on the market for $55 million. Why the changes?

    A: I put a contract on a piece of property in Jupiter, but I had to back out because the building would have been too small for our company by the end of this year.

    The house is on the market. I want to have a different place to live. My wife (Kirsten) and I like to build things. We have a magnificent property and we'd like to build a house together. We plan on staying on Jupiter Island. We haven't talked about going anywhere else.

    Q: Your rocky relationship with The Medalist club you founded has been well publicized. Now that former president De Mudd is gone, do you see a reconciliation?

    A: I'm very happy that De Mudd got kicked out. And he didn't leave on his own; he was kicked out for trying to force some bylaws through with equity members. At the end of the day, there was clash of personalities. He wanted to de-Norman and de-Dye (Pete, the Hall of Fame architect) The Medalist. You have to keep the culture of the club.

    I have been asked to go up there and visit with the members several times. My fingerprints are up there, even though the golf course has been redone.

    Q: How much did that bother you when the club asked Bobby Weed to renovate the course last year?

    A: It bothered me big time. It's just not right. It bothers me and it bothers Pete Dye. Normally, you have a contract where the designers have the right to make any changes. I didn't have that contract because I owned The Medalist at the time (with two other men).

    It was ridiculous. I offered that Pete and I would do this for free. They flat refused us. It's nowhere near to where it was originally. I last played there a couple of years ago. Shot 30 on the back nine. I had (right) shoulder surgery and haven't played at all this year. But I hope to someday soon go up and have some beers with the members.

    Q: How much do you miss competitive golf?

    A: I miss playing, but I don't miss the aches and pains the next morning from hitting golf balls. I don't have those anymore. I was a realist.

    I knew my body would get to a certain age where I couldn't do this anymore. I realized that. I'm going to soon start chipping and putting.

    I still like to play the game because I love the game. I also love to play tennis.

    Q: What do you think about your Jupiter Island neighbor Tiger Woods and his chances of once again winning majors when he heals from his back injury?

    A: I can only speak of personal experience. It's very difficult for your body to trust what you did before with such freedom. You compromise. You make a slight adjustment to your swing. Your body broke down for a reason. Under pressure, it exposes you. Do I think Tiger will come back and play? Yes, I do. Do I think he's going to come back and win like he did in his 20s? Absolutely not.

    Q: How is your golf course design business going?

    A: We opened our 100th golf course last year. We have 46 under contract around the world and 17 under construction. That's a manageable number.

    Q: There was always worry about what's going to happen to golf without Tiger. What are your thoughts about the state of the game with young stars such as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler stepping forward?

    A: It's the best it's ever been since the mid-1980s. I loved my era. There was six or eight of us always stepping up to the plate. Seve (Ballesteros), Nick (Faldo), Sandy (Lyle), Ian (Woosnam), (Fred) Couples, (Nick) Price, (Jose Maria) Olazabal, (Bernhard) Langer. Every time we went somewhere there would be three or four of us there. We pushed each other. We grew the game together. We all put the game ahead of us. We all learned that from Jack (Nicklaus). I see the same thing today. You have a depth of global players. I love seeing that. Golf has a tremendous foundation and they all embrace the social media.

    Q: You celebrated your 61st birthday recently. Do you feel 61?

    A: I feel really good. I can still do a lot of things I used to do, just not with the same intensity. When I drop in water with a tank on my back, I now think maybe I shouldn't go in the cave or dive under 200 feet. In my 20s and 30s, I was bulletproof. I still love hiking 18,000 feet, but more in a controlled situation. I've got more time to myself. I travel just as much. But because I don't play golf, I have 20 weeks a year up my sleeve.

    Craig Dolch is a Treasure Coast Newspapers correspondent with more than 30 years of golf writing experience.