We were so obsessed by finding the ‘next Greg Norman’ that the unassuming ways of Adam Scott slipped under our skin and won over the hearts and minds of the Australian golf public.
Sure, having golf’s most famous piece of fabric hanging in your walk-in wardrobe will endear you to any Aussie with even the slightest sporting bent, but his movie-star good looks and downright wholesomeness made Scott a crowd favourite well before his 2013 Masters triumph.
Where Norman enraptured an American audience that was besotted by that well-known Australian documentary, “Crocodile Dundee”, Scott has always been more James Bond than Mick Dundee.
Lacking the raw masculinity of Norman and the apparent aggression with which the Great White Shark attacked life on and off the course, Scott’s appeal is a more genteel one that makes ladies go weak at the knees and raises the standards of how Aussie blokes should present themselves.
Even their swings exhibit the differences in their personalities; Norman’s all-out attempt to overpower any 18 holes that dared stand in his way contrasted against the meticulous manifestation of Scott’s swing that makes grown men swoon and picks layouts apart piece by piece.
Where Norman’s presence was so all-encompassing and demanded that fans follow the Pied Piper of Aussie golf in their thousands, Scott is very much a man of the people and those who follow him throughout the Australian will feel as though in some small way they got to know him just a little bit.
It’s the type of presence that legendary Australian golfer and course designer Graham Marsh has seen a couple of times before in his distinguished career that included the 1982 Australian PGA Championship at Royal Melbourne.
“He represents the game so well and he’s an inspiration to young golfers and admired by the golfing community at large,” Marsh tells Australian Golf Digest.
“That is a tremendous starting point for a tournament, to have someone like that. [Arnold] Palmer was the same, [Jack] Nicklaus was the same. You have this person who has such an incredible professional attitude towards the game.
“Through the way he conducts himself he brings a whole level of credibility to the golf tournament.
“Being an Australian overseas has given him many opportunities and I think he believes in his own mind that there is a certain professional responsibility that he owes to Australian golf, regardless of any financial deal that he may do. That’s the kind of person he is and that should never be under-estimated.”
‘Palmer was the same, Nicklaus was the same. you have this person who has such an incredible professional attitude towards the game’ – Graham Marsh
Veteran Channel Seven commentator Pat Welsh remembers all too well the fall-out when Norman skipped a tournament – indeed any tournament – during the Australian summer of golf. No matter that he reigned as the world’s No.1 for a then record 331 weeks, contended in almost every Major over the course of a decade and had long ago made a home in the United States for himself and his family, the ‘Aussie lad done good’ was expected back home every summer without fail.
To the majority of the Australian public who have only recently ceded to the power of Halloween, spending Thanksgiving in Florida was not seen as a commitment to his family but merely a convenient excuse for Norman on the rare occasions that he didn’t return home.
Welsh recalls the crowds lining 10-deep down the first hole at Huntingdale Golf Club during the 1990 Australian Masters when Norman and Nick Faldo, then the top-two ranked golfers on the planet, went head-to-head in a Sunday duel.
A pairing that any promoter could only dream of, their battle created so much excitement that spectators jostling for position almost came to blows behind the second green after the Great White Shark bit off a little too much with his approaching wedge shot.
Unlike the whirlwind that followed Norman in his long-standing commitment to his home tour, Scott has brought a sense of measured cool to the Australian summer of golf – but it deserves no less appreciation.
Whether based in London, Switzerland or the Bahamas, Scott’s annual expedition back home has helped to elevate the status of every tournament he plays in, just like Norman did in his heyday throughout the 1980s and ’90s.
The green jacket parade over the summer of 2013 generated electricity among galleries that veteran tournament promoter Tony Roosenburg said he hadn’t seen since Norman’s prime and Scott’s presence at RACV Royal Pines alongside good friend and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia this month has the potential to draw the type of galleries Welsh had to fight through in the late ’80s.
“He’s a genuine Aussie superstar and has been for a long time. We just had the exclamation mark put on it when he won the Masters,” says Welsh, who has been patrolling the fairways of Australia’s biggest tournaments for Channel Seven for more than 30 years.
“To have him back here, on the basis that he comes back here and plays at least one of the events virtually every year is fantastic. I came through that era with Norman where if Greg missed an event out here for Thanksgiving the media almost crucified him, perhaps not completely aware of just how big Thanksgiving is to American families.
“I’ve spoken to Adam about this before and whether duty is the right word I’m not sure, but he does regard it as a privilege to be able to come back and enjoy the adoration of the fans that don’t get much of a chance to get up close to him. It’s a privilege for the fans and he loves to do that for them.
“They love his elegance, they love his humility. He’s always very easy with the young ones post his round, pretty much regardless of what he’s shot.
“He goes out of his way to try to put an Aussie tournament on his schedule just about every year.”
Since the PGA’s move from the Sunshine Coast to Scott’s home town of the Gold Coast in 2012, he has not only put his name to every tournament bar one, he has been well in contention come the final round. Winning in 2013 capped an extraordinary week where he gave so willingly of his time to the fans and the media, and then 12 months later he was pipped by Greg Chalmers in a marathon seven-hole playoff, his long putter failing him time and again on the 18th hole prior to its dramatic change for the next year.
In his absence in 2015 it was left to a young brigade including Nathan Holman, Zander Lombard and Dylan Fritelli to duke it out before he returned last year to finish tied for third behind popular American Harold Varner III.
Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate presented Scott with the key to the city in 2013 and played alongside him in last year’s pro-am and says the city not only benefits from his return almost every year but the way he represents the Gold Coast all year round.
“Playing in the pro-am with Adam was incredible and an amazing chance to spend time with someone who has such passion for our city,” Tate says.
“Adam is rarely home nowadays given his worldwide commitments but he still speaks so highly of our city, Australian golf and the PGA here at Royal Pines. His status on the world scene, his ambassadorial role for our city and his warm personality made him an obvious choice for such a civic award.
“I can’t wait to see him go head-to-head with Sergio, who is a newcomer to our city.”