AUSTRALIAN golfing legend Greg Norman believes his latest course project in the Illawarra can become a development hub for the next generation of talent, not just in Australia but the whole Asia-Pacific region.
Norman visited the site of his planned 18-hole championship course at Huntley on Wednesday to turn the first sod on an accompanying billion-dollar resort project.
The proposal includes a sporting academy that can mimic Norman’s world renowned Golf Academy at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
The Illawarra region has produced the likes of Jordan Zunic, Lincoln Tighe and rising amateur star Travis Smyth in recent years and Norman said he feels a responsibility to usher through the next generation.
“There is a proposal on board to have a golf academy and for me, one of the most fulfilling things in my life now is to give back,” Norman said.
“I’ve been around the game 43 years and I came up looking up to guys like David Graham, Bruce Crampton, Bruce Devlin, Peter Thomson.
“People looked up to me and now they’re looking up guys like Adam [Scott] and Jason [Day]. You like to encourage it and see our younger generation do better than what we did.
“You can get really good as an amateur, to become really good as a professional is a massive leap. To help them with that road map of success to me is important.”
The two-time British Open champion also believes the proposed academy could have a footprint beyond Australian shores.
“I have a very successful academy in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and we draw a lot of South American kids coming up there,” he said.
“I like to think of the same thing here, not only with just the Australian kids but also drawing the kids out of Asia to come down and experience that opportunity.”
Wollongong last hosted the NSW PGA Championship in 2011 and Norman said the course design will consider the capability to host major events.
“Whenever we build a golf course we always build in that flexibility where you can host tournaments,” he said.
“Whether it’s a top amateur tournament or it’s a professional event, we’d be failing in our job if we didn’t have that capability.
“You need to be able to build it for someone who can shoot 150 and someone who could potentially shoot 65-63. It’s a delicate balancing act but the site here is brilliant to be able to do that.”