Yes and yes, if you believe Bruce Devlin. No and no, if you believe Greg Norman.
Devlin, an Aussie with considerable tournament wins himself, has caused a firestorm in the golfing world of Australia by criticizing Norman for not participating in the Australian Open last week. Devlin called Norman an 'ungrateful individual' for missing the 100th anniversary of the Open and said, 'You'd think he'd have the decency to come out and celebrate something special.'
After last weeks Thanksgiving holiday, Norman now is in Australia this week to play the Australian PGA. When he arrived Down Under, he was immediately inundated by media members for his reaction to Devlins comments. Norman was stunned by the remarks.
Now, Devlin has always seemed like a polite and personable guy. But consider that Norman has lived in the U.S. since 1983, a period of 21 years. Before that, he played fulltime on the European Tour since 1977. So he has not been a fulltime resident of Australia for 27 years.
Nonetheless, he has played the Aussie Open 23 times, teeing it up the first time as an 18-year-old amateur in 1973. I believe I have supported the event as well as anybody else on the Australian circuit or any professional,' Norman said. And that seems pretty impressive, considering he would have had to make the trip halfway around the world to Australia the majority of those 23 times.
Of course, this was the centennial of the Open. And that meant a little something special. But contrast this with the fact that it was the Thanksgiving holidays in the States. Daughter Morgan-Leigh was home from college for one of the few times in the school year. Ditto son Gregory. What would you have done?
'Ask the general public and I think the consensus would be spending time with your family is more important than going out there playing golf,' said Norman.
Hes right. There are only four years that Morgan-Leigh will be in college, but this happens to be one of them. His choice was simple ' be a husband and stay at home for the holidays with your family, or be a golfer and go to the centennial anniversary of the Australian Open.
Norman chose his family.
'It's my life. My children are in college and the only time they come home is for long weekends like Thanksgiving,' he said.
Now, Norman has had a row several times with the homeland over skipping this or that tournament. Actually, he bypassed the Australian Open the first time back in 1992 because it was Thanksgiving week.
I had committed to my family that I would spend Thanksgiving with them, he told Golf Digest in 92. I had never spent Thanksgiving with them, and the kids are old enough now (Morgan-Leigh was 10 then, Gregory was seven) that they know what Thanksgiving is all about
I just figured I need to spend time with my family Im going to spend time with my American family.
So this criticism handed down by Devlin isnt new. Norman has discovered how difficult it is when, 1, you live in the United States; 2, you are the most famous golfer in your home country of Australia; and 3, there is a days flight time and half a world between them.
Hes also learned how difficult it is to juggle his multiple business projects, the American holiday schedule, and the Australian golf schedule.
He gets a lot of appearance money to play in Australia, and if thats your criticism of him, you certainly have a valid point. But he says that appearance money in not the issue in this particular Aussie Open controversy.
'Someone mentioned to me that I was offered $400,000 to play last week,' he said. 'There was no discussion about appearance money last week and I've played in this country without it before.'
And he says he has forked out big chunks of his own money to keep certain Australian events afloat. 'I have underwritten tournaments in this country to the tune of $1 million when things were going down the toilet, he said.
This is what happens, though, when you are the sporting idol of a country. Sometimes you just don't know where the next attack is coming from.
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