Adam Scott, the Masters Champion, rightly credited Greg Norman for inspiring a generation of players. Norman, a golfing colossus, strode the fairways of Australia and the world and despite all the ache of those major championship losses his was a remarkable career. No one before or since could line a fairway eight people deep. There are and have been so many other factors that have also inspired players. The generation before Norman was dominated by Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle. They were obviously two tremendous players. Thomson was the master of The Open Championship for a decade or more and Nagle with his simple swing that almost never misfired won many big championships including the 1960 Open at St Andrews. Their unstinting support of the Australian and New Zealand (remember NZ had eight or nine events in the late 1960s ) tour created something for the next generation of Bob Shearer, Graham Marsh, David Graham and Norman to learn, earn and send them on their way. At a base level there can be no better inspiration than someone showing a kid it is possible, if you are talented enough, to make a living playing at something you love. The game showed Shearer a way out of the store room at Slazengers, Graham a way out of the PGF factory, Marsh a path other than that of a high school maths teacher and Norman well who knows. Maybe he could have been the brain surgeon he alluded to at his Augusta press conference following that fateful Sunday in 1996. I remember watching Thomson at Metropolitan in an Australian PGA championship in the late nineteen-sixties and the crowds seemed huge to my childhood eyes. More than just one player though there were big events including The Australian Open, Wills and Dunlop tournaments that seemed so glamorous and exciting. It was those events as much as the players that encouraged kids to play. Courses too inspire people to play. No matter how rudimentary they are beloved by members because of the memories of great shots and of friendships and shared experiences. Alister MacKenzie, the great designer, understood that phenomenon when we wrote in 1930 that the remarkable thing about golf is that every man has an affection for the mud-heap on which he plays. Eastern was my early mud-heap and I loved playing there but my first trips to the sandbelt Metropolitan, Commonwealth, Yarra Yarra, Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne left me in awe of those places and how much fun golf could be when the architecture was elevated to a world-class level. It is unquestioned that Scott, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and the rest were inspired by, and came out of, the post-Norman era but that is only half the story. It is no use being inspired if there are not others with the teaching skills or the will to mentor or guide players technically. I suspect Peter Thomson would disagree and argue players should work it out for themselves. There is much to that self-reliance argument and an understanding of your mechanics is incredibly important. You can t run to your teacher on the 71st hole of The Masters for a lesson. Thomson and Nagle had simple and repeatable swings born of the time and those who came before who had learned with hickory. Then Nicklaus came along and derailed a whole generation of players who tried to copy his unique swing. Teachers too saw the Thomson model as outdated and lacking the necessary power to compete in the Nicklaus era. In the 1980s teachers reversed the trend and here in Australia teachers, most notably Dale Lynch and Steve Bann who began the VIS program recognized the quality of the Thomson s swing and its fundamentals and went back to them. They, along with Gary Edwin in Queensland and Butch Harmon who taught Scott as a teenager are much as Norman responsible for the success of the last twenty years. The players were unquestionably talented but without the technical skills they were given they would never have played as well as they have.
Author: Mike Clayton / Golf Australia