I have been fortunate through my golf and business ventures to be able to travel around the world and visit many exotic places, but my heart will always be with my native Australia.
I first chose to live in the United States because of golf, and although I still live here, Australia will always be my home. My parents and my sister are there, as are all of my childhood friends. In fact, I chose Florida because it reminded me so much of home, with the ocean on both sides, warm weather in the winter and, thanks to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, proximity to great fishing and diving.
Australia and the United States have a lot in common, including golf. The golf industry is obviously much larger in the United States, but Australians and Americans both have tremendous passion for the game.
One thing that most people who have never been to Australia don't realize is that the country is home to some of the world's greatest courses. The quality of golf, particularly in what is known as the Sandbelt region of Melbourne, is as spectacular as it is anywhere on earth. Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Commonwealth, Huntingdale and Yarra Yarra are all within twenty minutes of one another. And Cape Schanck, on the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula, is another golfer's paradise.
I was born in the outback mining town of Mount Isa, and a short time after I arrived, my parents decided to move to the coast. Townsville was where we settled.
For the next fifteen years, Magnetic Island was a playground for our family. It's located just a few miles off the North Queensland coast, and it's been a mecca for sunseekers from Australia's cooler southern cities for decades. I spent countless hours exploring the underwater beauty of the coral reefs there. It was a wonderful part of the world for anyone to grow up in.
My parents owned a simple shack on the island (until a cyclone flattened it to the ground) that we used as a base to spear fish and explore the reefs. My first taste of golf was actually at the Magnetic Island Country Club, a great little nine-hole course.
One day, when my father came home from work, he announced to my sister, Janis, and me that he was going to help us build a boat. For the next few months, our backyard looked more like a boatyard as we studied the plans, laid out the materials and assembled our Sabot. Janis and I joined the Townsville sailing club and were eager to test ourselves under racing conditions.
The biggest question was who would be skipper. I eventually won the argument, but Janis, who is three years older, did not go down without a struggle. I think those first few sailing competitions were where I developed my intensity and competitive fire.
Yes, Queensland gave me my start, and it's always been very important to give a little bit back to a place that will always be so near and dear to me. For this reason, my father and I came up with the idea nearly two decades ago to start a foundation to help teach young people in Queensland about the game of golf.
I understand as much as anyone what access, encouragement and positive role models mean to a young golfer. So we created the Greg Norman Golf Foundation to fund professional guidance and instruction for students, children with specific physical disabilities, Aborigines and junior members of golf clubs throughout Queensland.
Probably more than any other sport, the game of golf requires self-discipline and determination—qualities that help to develop character and personal strength in young people. We work with junior golfers to build confidence and skill, to help them play to the best of their abilities and to make the game available to anyone who really wants to play. The foundation prides itself on opening its doors to everyone.
Queensland is a great place for sports and for encouraging participation in them. The foundation has already produced a number of fine champions, most notably Adam Scott and Karrie Webb, but ultimately what matters most is spreading and sharing a love of the game.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Sydney is a great place to start any trip to Australia. As for what best captures its essence, that has got to be the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the great beaches, the restaurants and its overall beauty. Sydney has so much to offer, including a tremendous business climate and unbelievable nightlife. It's a city with everything, from one of the world's most famous beaches, Bondi Beach, to one of the great architectural icons, the Sydney Opera House.