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Greg Norman Means Business

Greg Norman
Erika Larsen
Greg Norman

Norman is a decade removed from his prime, but looks as he did when he ruled the World Ranking for 331 weeks: fit, crisply dressed, with the same blindingly blonde hair tousled atop the same copper brow.

"Norman was probably the most photogenic guy we ever had on camera," says Frank Chirkinian, a former CBS golf producer.

A natural introvert, Norman seemed uncomfortable around the swishy country club set that permeated his profession. He flew solo — in his own chopper. With few exceptions, his peers rolled their eyes and steered clear of the enigmatic superstar, as he did of them.

"I played on Tour with him for six years and didn't have one conversation with the guy," says Tour journeyman and TV announcer John Maginnes.

In any case, Norman refused to tone down his glitzy lifestyle or temper his bombast. Caddie Bambi Levin recalls Norman annihilating his drive down the 13th fairway at the 1991 Masters, then wheeling around and boasting, "If that's not the best drive you ever saw, Bambi, I'll eat the cover off that golf ball."

"It was a great drive but I was caddying for Brian Tennyson, not him," Levin says. "He connected better with people outside golf. I was in Perth when he was having his boat built and Greg went down there with a keg of beer to give to the workers."

Norman's bravado was not only good cover — it was good business. His "Attack Life" credo appealed to alpha males, wannabe alpha males and sofa spuds who attacked mostly hoagies. He broke away from IMG in '93, creating Great White Shark Enterprises; hired Collins away from the Cleveland-based agency two years later; and sold his lifestyle one piece of clothing, bottle of wine and golf-course villa at a time.

"He can assimilate information very quickly," Collins says. "He can walk out of one room where you're on subject A, into another where you're on B, and then play golf 20 minutes later and have no residual hangover from the other meetings."

Norman's also an astute judge of people. Still, he was surprised at the outpouring of support for him after he blew a six-stroke lead to Nick Faldo in the '96 Masters. "At the end," says Chirkinian, "it looked like a car wreck with the left-front wheel just spinning to a close. It was awful to watch."

Faldo embraced the fallen star on the 18th green, a snapshot that summed up a bitter irony — Norman's greatest failure had finally won over the competition. Still, his body had begun to fail him long before the back nine at Augusta, and the office had more appeal than ever.

Norman typically rises at 4:30 a.m. to prepare for the day ahead and begins answering e-mail from his home office by 7:15. He's in the office by 8, leaves after lunch to work out and hit balls (when his back allows) and does some telephone work from home in the evenings. He's away on business roughly 40 weeks of the year, as he has been since he turned pro.

His biographer Lauren St. John and others have suggested his drive for business success and everything else he's ever done has been to please his stern father Merv, who didn't hide his disgust when at 17 Greg ditched his plan to fly for the Royal Australian Air Force and set out to become a pro golfer.

Merv was never the hugging type to begin with, but his son's career choice left him cold, and the two were estranged for almost two decades. The relationship began to thaw in 1991, and, although Merv seemed relatively unmoved by Norman's on-course heroics, he told Sports Illustrated in 1996, "He's a very good businessman."

Norman remains a very good golfer, too, still capable of reverting to his vintage, mid-80s form. He and Steve Elkington were threatening to finish last at the Shootout in November when Elkington tweaked his partner's swing late Saturday. Revitalized, Norman got his swagger back in the final round, hitting towering drives and laser-like iron shots, the best of which was a 4-iron to within inches of the cup for an eagle on the 17th hole. The duo shot a 55, low even for the birdie-fest scramble format, climbing from 11th to fourth place.

"I'll probably play in one senior tour event in 2006, the Outback Steakhouse event, because of my friendship with [Outback founder and CEO] Chris Sullivan," Norman says. "Then I won't play a senior event until the Senior PGA Championship and the senior majors — and some regular Tour events. I'll go back to my favorite stomping grounds like Harbour Town, and I'll play the British Open."

The British, in which Norman has made 20 straight cuts, a record among active players, is where he made his return last summer with a tie for 60th. He went on to notch top-five finishes at the Senior British Open and the U.S. Senior Open before missing the cut at the International, which he played as a favor to friend Jack Vickers, the Denver oil-and-gas magnate. (He WD'd from the PGA Championship with a sore back.)

But it's business, the tie that binds, that will be Norman's legacy and blot out the freak shots and strategic miscalculations. (By the way, where is Larry Mize now, anyway?) The 88 worldwide victories and two British Opens were means to an end and Mize and Tway can't do a thing about it. Nothing can stop Norman now, and if that isn't the God's honest truth he'll eat the cover off that golf ball.

The Secret of My Success
Hard work and vision are keys to Norman's conquest of the business world.

1. "Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. But do your due diligence."

2. "Understanding your enemy is the greatest secret in life. If they work for eight hours a day, I'm going to work for 10. If they're hitting the ball 300 yards, I'll hit it 305."

3. "My interests are directed toward putting money back into the companies and seeing them grow."

4. "Our success is a result of knowing how to market a brand and having the right people represent that brand."

5. "I've had some three-putts in the business world, but if you're going to be in the game, you have to accept those and move on."

6. "All of our businesses are set up for the long term."

7. "To become successful, an entrepreneur has to have vision. If you go into a project with no vision for the future, it is destined to fail."

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