THERE was great excitement in North Queensland when former world number one Greg Norman dropped in for a “look around”.
No one is saying why he was there, which begs the question: does the Great White Shark have plans to design and build a golf course in Townsville, invest in the city or was he just visiting his old stomping group?
It’s hard to believe it was the latter, but surely the golfing entrepreneur didn’t visit the city to kick the tyres.
The Shark’s whirlwind tour of the city in February started with a visit to Rowes Bay Golf Club where he first swung a golf club and where his mother Toini is immortalised as the inaugural women’s club champion in 1969.
There was also a meeting with Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, according to Rowes Bay Golf Club general manager Gary Toplis.
“His mother (Toini) was our first ever ladies champion in 1969 and Greg played some of his junior golf here,” Toplis told Inside Golf.
“The (Norman) family lived just down the road at Pallarenda.”
Norman told Toplis he used to ride his horse up and down the beach.
“Greg was impressed with the condition of the golf course and how far the club had progressed since the late 1960s and early 1970s,” Toplis said.
“It was a very sandy track back then, but it has come along in leaps and bounds.
“We have gone from being a goat track to the premier golf course in Townsville,” Toplis added.
“We have a lot of waterways and birdlife and Greg was impressed with that and the fact we do more than 55,000 rounds annually.”
Townsville has four golf courses: Rowes Bay, Townsville, the Willows and nine-hole Lavarack Barracks.
“It was a tremendous honour having Greg here because he was the one player who took the game to the next level.”
Toplis said he didn’t know the two-time major winner was going to visit until a day before he arrived.
“All I was told was there was a VIP arriving to have a look around,” he said.
“It is amazing just to have him back here at our club.”
During a tour of the clubhouse, Norman’s face suddenly lit up when he spied his mother’s name on the championship honourboard as the club’s first ladies club champion.
According to the Townsville Bulletin, Norman’s visit was planned earlier in the year in Sydney when his business partner Bill Moss met with Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, Deputy Mayor Les Walker and council CEO Adele Young.
That’s when Norman was briefed on what Townsville had to offer.
Apparently, Norman, who was travelling with his chief course designer and golf course shapers, inspected a number of potential sites including Rowes Bay golf course and a site at the back of Magnetic Island.