One senior Australian golfer back in the news and back on the competitive golf course is Greg Norman.
For a number of reasons, the 53 year old has found a new lease of golfing life.
As we write this, Norman is set for his second straight event in the US and plans a number of tournaments in the coming months, including the British Open in July.
“I’ve been a bit absent for a while, about five years now,” Norman says. “I haven’t really focused a lot of attention on wanting to get out there and play, and now I feel I just want to get out there.”
Norman is about to compete in the Senior PGA Championship in Rochester, New York, just a few days lay off after his appearance at the AT & T Classic in Georgia.
Norman missed the cut in Atlanta playing against the young guns of the PGA Tour event despite a second round 71 – and the advantage of having designed the TPC Sugarloaf course himself.
He fancies his chances at the Senior PGA event, which is for 50 plus golfers.
A big reason for the rekindling of Norman’s passion in competitive golf has not only been the influence of his fiancée, tennis great Chris Evert, but also that his 22 year old son Gregory is starting to give him a run for his money on the golf course.
“He’s getting better and better and better, and he’s getting closer and closer to beating me,” Norman says. “I think that’s good for both of us in a lot of ways.
Gregory caddied for his dad in the PGA event last week and has been playing in a number of amateur events in Florida. In return, Norman has been helping his son hone his game and being a teacher has spurred the two times British Open winner on.
“When you go to the short game and teach him the short game, you’re actually teaching yourself, because what you’re doing is bringing up the old habits that I used to look for when I used to practice,” Norman says. “By telling myself mentally – even though I’m physically not doing it – when I go to practice, I say, well, you told Gregory to do this. Why don’t you do that? Rotate your hips a little bit, and then all of a sudden it starts to fall into place a little bit easier.”
Evert was a fierce competitor during her own stellar career and has also inspired his recent comeback.
“She says to me, you love to play, why don’t you go play,” Norman says. “She’s an athlete, she understands what it’s all about, and she’s been very encouraging for me, and she sees me practice, she loves to watch me practice just as much as I love to watch her play tennis. She’s out there doing the same with me.”
Norman says it has all given him a huge boost of energy.
“My whole attitude about (going to Atlanta) to play was because I am getting a bit excited about playing (golf)” he says.
“I’m really looking forward to July more than I am May, to tell you the truth. I’m looking forward to playing some of the senior major championships. … I’m very excited about that, and I figured if I (could) get into Atlanta, that would be good preparation for me.”
Being named captain of the International Team for the 2009 Presidents Cup has also caused Norman to re-immerse himself in the game. He has been following the progress of players around the world to search for potential Captain’s Picks.
“It’s a little bit tougher for me than it is a U.S. captain because here you can really focus on one country,” Norman says. “I’ve got to focus on a lot of countries, a lot of tours and see how they come out. That’s what I’m doing now, studying that week in and week out.”
As a 53 year old overcoming injuries, Norman could do a lot of inspiring himself for older golfers around the world if he gets back to anything like peak form. Hopefully, we will see Norman back in action in Australia some time soon.
TIDBIT: The US Senior PGA Championship was begun in 1937 at Augusta National Golf Club, at the invitation of legendary Bobby Jones, and has since featured many of the game’s greats that have reached the age of 50. The 69th Senior PGA Championship starts this week at the Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York. The Senior tour is becoming increasingly popular and gaining unprecedented coverage.