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SHARK FIN; Norman: I was about to throw in the towel.

Greg Norman was on the brink of quitting golf for good last month.

The world No.1 made the astonishing admission yesterday after gearing up for the Gulfstream World Invitational with a practise round at Loch Lomond on Saturday.

Norman was on the verge of packing it all in after 20 years at the top following his US Masters and US Open flops.

He missed the cut in both - the first time in a career of 68 majors that had happened - and his 14 over par score in the US Open was his worst EVER in a major.

At 42, and with enough cash in the bank to clear the national debt of a Third World country, Norman decided he'd had enough.

He revealed: "There was a moment last month when I was ready to shut down my golf operation completely and concentrate on my businesses.

"I was sitting at home having a few drinks and reflecting on recent events. All it would have taken was one more beer and I'd have done it."

Greg didn't swig that extra bottle of the amber nectar. In fact, the multi- millionaire Aussie made up his mind NOT to throw in the towel.

He had a serious look at himself and bounced back brilliantly by winning the St.Jude Classic in Memphis last week - his 80th title worldwide - to become the first golfer ever to pass the dollars 11m barrier in prize money.

That victory, which was his first on the US Tour for over a year, didn't just restore him to the world No.1 ranking. It also made him realise that winning tournaments is still a bigger buzz than earning zillions of dollars.

The beer which quenched his thirst during his victory press conference never tasted sweeter.

He admitted: "I knew my game wasn't as bad as my scores were. It was case of waiting for things to come around."

On Saturday, the Shark took the plunge at glorious Loch Lomond, playing all 18 holes before heading to a secret location for two days of his favourite pastime - fishing.

Norman is an honorary member of Loch Lomond, but he laughed: "The only time I'd seen it until now was when I flew over it in a helicopter a few years ago.

"It's a fantastic layout and in incredible condition. I can't wait to get started in the tournament."

Norman returns to Loch Lomond tomorrow to complete his build-up and it's clear the Great White Shark is hungry again.

Winning in Memphis has whetted his appetite for the game which has earned him the friendship of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Heads of State.

Much as he loves his business enterprises, golf is back as his No.1 priority again.

He added: "The thing I want to accomplish is to keep winning.

"Winning is the best medicine any athlete could ever have, whether you're a golfer, a tennis player or an athlete.

"I've decided to put some of my business things aside and concentrate on golf. All I've really done is delegate a bit more and I've made a few changes to that end.

"I just came to the realisation that you can't do everything. I've put the right people in the right places to make the right decisions."

Once the Great White Shark would gobble up his fellow golfers with a feeding frenzy - more recently, he's been devouring the business community.

Norman isn't far away from entering the list of the world's 500 richest businessmen. His operation is simply a licence to print money.

Last year, his line of designer clothing featuring his shark logo grossed around dollars 60m.

Even that threatens to be small beer compared to his newest project, a 230-acre turf farm in Florida which produces grasses for major sports stadiums.

He bought a stake in Cobra Golf, and turned a dollars 2m gamble into a dollars 30m windfall when he sold his share a couple of years ago.

He admitted: "In the late Eighties, I would sit in board meetings and fall asleep. I hated business until I realised the people I was paying to attend to my business weren't doing a good job.

"I saw some mistakes made when I wasn't paying attention and I paid the price. So it took it on my self to lead.

"These days I've been as active in business as I have been on the golf course."

Great White Shark Enterprises is now a multi-million dollar operation.

So much so that Norman recently paid dollars 31m for a custom-built 737 jet airliner - guaranteed to make his annual travels of around 275,000 miles simply fly by.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Simpson, Gordon
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 7, 1997
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