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Reef Love

In fact, it was during my youth that I became inextricably linked with what has become one of my trademarks: the straw hat. When I was young, the ubiquitous baseball cap of today was not so popular, so I wore a typical wide-brimmed surfer’s hat. The brim circled my entire head, even the back of my neck. It was perfect for keeping the pounding sun off my face and keeping me cool. When I played golf I was able to keep my eyes focused on the ball while it was sitting on the tee, in flight and after landing—all without getting a horrible shot of sunlight in my eyes. But my parents despised it, so much so that my mother used to hide it from me!

In the beginning of my career, I was sponsored by Akubra, an iconic Australian hat company—Australia’s equivalent of Stetson—known for its large, Aussie-meets-cowboy styling. On the course this hat was far too hot for me, so they created the same shape that I loved in my childhood but in straw instead of felt and rabbit fur. (Though rainy or windy days prevent me from wearing the straw hat because it doesn’t keep the rain out as well as a baseball cap and it blows off easier in the wind.) The straw hat happened to be one of the first things designed by Greg Norman Collection, and for years it was one of our best-selling items.

The reef, of course, also inspired my nickname, which was given to me at the 1981 Masters by an Augusta Chronicle headline writer. After opening with a sixty-nine and grabbing a share of the first-round lead in my debut appearance, I was ushered into the media center. Nobody knew who I was, so they probed to learn something about me, particularly my interests off the golf course. I told them I was an aggressive golfer with a fairly ?aggressive lifestyle, that I had grown up near the Great Barrier Reef, and that I enjoyed surfing, diving and spearfishing. One reporter asked if I liked sharks. As they often fed off the fish I caught, I was quick to respond, "No!" In fact I remember following that up with a comment about wanting to shoot one. Well the next thing I knew people were talking about how I used to shoot sharks when I was a kid. The following morning I picked up the paper, and on the front page of the sports section was a huge headline: GREAT WHITE SHARK LEADS MASTERS.

Australia’s coastal splendor will always attract me, and I appreciate every opportunity I have to return. In fact my most recent trip was one of the most special. Just a few months ago, at the tail end of a three-week business trip that took me to Dubai, South Korea and Australia, I extended the trip to take my son, Gregory, up to Queensland to visit all of my old surfing spots. I showed him where I used to light campfires on the beach. I showed him the pandanus tree I used to sleep under. I took him to the exact same rocks I used to walk on with my surfboard. We just stood there and watched the waves roll in. After a while, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Dad, this is cool!"

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