Norman keen to design Olympic course


NAPLES, Fla. – An old Swahili warrior song celebrates the bravery of both the victor and the defeated.

Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of God. So let us celebrate the struggle.

Greg Norman could have authored that in a past life.

He will be remembered as a man who won his share of titanic golf battles, but he will also be remembered for some of the most agonizing defeats the game has ever witnessed.

At 56, Norman isn’t finished with his magnificent struggle.

In the wake of another loss as the Presidents Cup Internationals captain, Norman is barely pausing to lick his wounds. There’s another epic struggle ahead, and it just might be the most intense competition going in golf today.

Norman is burning to win something big again. We’re not talking about this week’s Franklin Templeton Shootout, where Norman is host and a participant. We’re talking about his teaming with Lorena Ochoa to win the bid to design the course that will be home to golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Norman and Ochoa were named last week among the eight finalists for the architectural job.

“The process has been an arduous one, to say the least,” Norman said after his pro-am round Thursday.

Winning the right to build the course would rank among the treasured triumphs in Norman’s career.

“It would be high up there, I’m not going to lie about that,” Norman said.

With so much invested in the Olympic project, there is the risk of another stinging defeat. The competition has to be the most formidable that has ever lined up to win a golf course architectural job.

The team of Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam is in the mix. So is the team of Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett. So are Gary Player, Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, Martin Hawtree and Robert Trent Jones II.

Whether he wins another big prize, or endures another big blow, Norman will relish the struggle. He said defeat has been a great teacher.

“Hey, you move on with life,” Norman said of his toughest defeats. “You’ve got to be philosophical enough about [losing], whether it’s on or off the golf course. That’s life. At the end of the day, I think failure is good for you. You learn more from failure than you do success. I think that is part of my success in life.”

A lot of Norman’s life lessons will be packed into his bid to win the Olympic project. Norman is one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. He knows his way around board rooms almost as well as he knows his way around a golf course. He’ll need that savvy with the pressure ratcheting up in the selection process.

Come Monday, Norman said, the eight finalists will receive an informational packet outlining the specs for the job. They’ll each get to visit the proposed site near Rio de Janeiro once before preparing their pitches, which will include routing and schematic plans for the golf course. The finalists will submit their plans before giving a 45-minute presentation, probably at the end of January, beginning of February, Norman said.

“So you’ve got seven weeks to do this,” Norman said. “The timeframe we’ve worked on this, compared to most other projects, this is like a nanosecond.”

Norman has some special motivation. He said he is inspired to do the project right for Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer this year. Norman said Ballesteros shared his Olympic dream with him back when they were taking turns as No. 1 and No. 2 in the world.

“He was so passionate about getting golf into the Olympics,” Norman said. “We got to make sure it stays in. I’d do that for Seve.”

Norman said the winning architect or architectural team will carry a heavy responsibility.

“The overriding message is: How do we keep golf in the Olympics?” Norman said. “The statement you make in 2016 is obviously the statement that is going to carry golf forward . . . Whoever is the final pick, it’s crucial.

“We have this one opportunity now for the game of golf in the Olympics. If we don’t maximize that opportunity, then shame on all of us, in a lot of ways. Does that fall on the shoulders of whoever the designer is? Maybe, to a degree.”

It’s all part of what makes this yet another of Norman’s magnificent struggles.