Graeme McDowell Talks About His New Florida Restaurant

November 19, 2015

Graeme McDowell’s foray into the restaurant business is turning into a double order.

Jumping off the success of the original Nona Blue Modern Tavern in Orlando, which opened in 2013, McDowell and business partners Joe Davi and Bill Bona will open up a second Nona Blue Modern Tavern near TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in spring 2016.

“To be open for the Players Championship [May 12-15] would be a long-shot dream,” McDowell said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “Construction can be tough and there are a few unknown timeframes in there. We’ll wait until we’re ready to be open.”

McDowell, 36, is in St. Simons Island, Ga., for this week’s RSM Classic. He was scheduled to speak with the press on Monday but couldn’t make it due to the finish of the rain-delayed OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which he won with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff.

“A nice problem to have,” he said Wednesday.

He called the victory “greatly needed” for his confidence and even his playing status. His first win since the 2013 RBC Heritage also marked his first top-10 finish on Tour in over a year — a dire dry spell for the Ryder Cup hero and U.S. Open champion of 2010 who had fallen to 62nd in the world.

“The results,” he said, “kind of fell away.”

A new father — wife Kristin delivered a baby girl in August of last year — McDowell missed the cut at the U.S. Open and PGA. He was never a factor despite at least making it to the weekend rounds at the Masters and the British Open. He wondered if he would ever win again.

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Today, McDowell credits part of his comeback to another golfer who knows his way around the restaurant business: Greg Norman. The two talked branding and business when McDowell visited the Great White Shark’s offices earlier this year, but they talked a little golf, too, before parting.

After watching the telecast of the third round at Mayakoba, in which McDowell shot 70, Norman gave McDowell what he would refer to as a “text message lesson.” Among the tips: McDowell was to complete his backswing and loosen up at address. He did that and more as he shot a final-round 66 before nearly holing his 5-iron approach in the playoff.

“I dream and hope that someday my brand will even be in the same league as these guys,” McDowell said when asked during Wednesday’s call about the post-golf trajectories of Norman and Jack Nicklaus. “In the meantime I’m trying to select very carefully what I want to do.”

For the time being that means having a G-Mac beer, a clothing line, and now a second Nona Blue Modern Tavern restaurant in Ponte Vedra Beach. It will occupy a free-standing, waterfront building at the front of the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center, facing State Highway A1A. News of the new local dining option comes shortly after Tiger Woods opened his first eatery, The Woods Jupiter, near West Palm Beach, Aug. 10.

“We’d hemmed and hawed about where we wanted to have the next location,” McDowell said. “West Palm was mentioned. We let Tiger have that one. It seems like he’s doing a good job down there.”