Year of two sharks!

August 4, 2016

In 1975, there were two different shark stories developing: One shark was feeding off the shore of Amity Island while another was about to launch a golf career that would make him a Hall of Famer in 2001. If you are over 40 years of age, you will remember going to the theater to see “Jaws,” the smash hit written by Peter Benchley and directed by Stephen Spielberg. This simple story, forty-one years later, still gives many beachgoers a twinge of apprehension about dipping a toe in the surf and wading out into deeper water. The haunting theme music still plays somewhere in the back of my mind and alerts your sub-conscious to impending danger. But let’s move on to the other, friendlier shark.

On February 10, 1955, John was born in Queensland, Australia and was the pride and joy of his parents, Merv and Toini. His dad was an electrical engineer and his mother was a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed a round of golf whenever possible. Toini worked hard on her game and had a single digit handicap. When John was fifteen, she taught him the game that changed his life forever. He loved to play cricket and rugby, but golf and fame were his destiny. Under his mom’s tutelage, his handicap went from 27 to scratch in under 18 months.

In 1975, at age 20, he got his first professional job as an assistant golf pro at the Beverly Park Golf Course in Sydney, Australia. A year later, John became a touring pro and won his first tournament in the West Lakes Classic at Adelaide, in Southern Australia. In 1977, he joined the European Tour and recorded his first win in a Scottish Classic event. But in 1980, he began his journey to the Hall of Fame when he won the French Open, the Swedish Open and the Australian Open.

In 1981, the stage was set for his first Masters tournament and people around the world watched Greg (John) Norman finish in a tie for third place, three strokes behind the winner, Tom Watson. After the tournament, someone - probably a sports writer - gave him the nickname, “the great white shark,” due to his build, blond hair, white teeth and aggressive play.  That name is now his trademark for marketing his merchandise. But believe it or not, during his Hall of Fame career, he never won the Masters title, finishing in second place four times; and either tied for or finished alone in third place, three times.

I still remember his meltdown in the 1996 Masters, when on the last day of the tournament; he lost a five stroke lead to finish second to Nick Faldo. His day had started out badly with a drive into the trees off the first tee and didn’t get any better. By the eleventh hole, he missed a two-foot par putt; on the fifteenth, missed an eagle putt and off the sixteenth tee he put his drive into the water. Faldo came from five strokes back to shoot a 67 and win by five strokes. Noman’s tragedy is still regarded as one of the biggest meltdowns in professional sports history.

But “The Shark,” never gave up and went on to finish his career with some impressive stats:  He had 20 PGA Tour wins, 14 European Tour wins, 31 Australia Tour wins and two wins in Japan. The crown jewels of his career were: two British Open Titles (1986 and 1993); two U.S. Open Titles (1984 and 1995) and two PGA Championship Titles (1986 and1993). He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.

19th Hole trivia

Norman, who turned 61 this past February, estimates he has hit over four million golf balls in his career since the age of fourteen. He attributes his bad knees and back to “complete wear and tear,” on those areas over the years.

Norman is the founder of Great White Shark Enterprises, which deals in golf merchandise, real estate, steak and other beef products, sunglasses, golf course design and Wake Parks for water sports.

The Shark’s second wife was tennis star Chris Evert.

Norman was hired as a golf commentator by Fox News in April of 2014, but lost his job this past January.  Fox was said to be critical of his coverage of the 2015 U.S. Open.

The budget for the movie Jaws was $9 million and it grossed $470 million.

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