In The Way of the Shark, Greg Norman has written a most unusual golf autobiography. But perhaps that’s because Norman is an unusual golfer. As much a businessman these days as an athlete, Norman has—in a way that few others have—managed to capitalize on his golf fame.
A tidbit from the book that reveals the extent on his transformation from titan of golf to captain of industry: While enjoying his yacht, Norman was stopped by the Coast Guard, who apparently suspected him of being a drug smuggler. It could have turned out to be a major hassle, but fortunately, one of the Coast Guard officers recognized him: “Hey. You’re Greg Norman … the wine guy.”
So The Way of the Shark is as much about Norman’s business ventures as about his life in golf. While Norman covers the requisite golf beginnings, major tournaments and epic failures, he has far more to tell about his business efforts.
Golfers since the Haig have made money from their endorsement deals. And certainly Norman has been richly rewarded with his own. But early on, he apparently decided that he was interested in more than the (transitory) product endorsement. He wanted to build his own brand, and companies that would outlive his career as a golfer.“Greg Norman,” he decided, should stand for more than just well struck golf shots. To that end, he’s developed a variety of businesses, including golf course design, real estate development, and of course, wine. The Way of the Shark is as much about those efforts as his golf.
A very interesting part of the book centers around his battles with the PGA Tour. As every long time golf fan knows, Norman at one point tried to start a World Golf Tour that would run concurrently with the PGA and European Tours. Norman envisioned high paying, limited field tournaments, to be broadcast on Fox and played at courses around the world. He moved too slowly, however, and as his play was developing, he was checkmated by the PGA Tour. Norman uses the book to try to tell his side of the story, and it’s not flattering to Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour. If only half of Norman’s side of the story is true, it would not be surprising that he holds a grudge against the Tour’s powers-that-be.
I think that Norman’s voice come through pretty strongly throughout the book, in spite of the credited co-author, Donald Phillips. It’s an easy read, if a bit pedestrian in its style. The book’s weakness is that it’s a bit repetitive at times, and I occasionally found myself skipping a page, knowing what was on tap without actually reading the label.
I’ve always been a fan of Norman the player. In spite of his overly publicized Major failures, I love to watch his swing, which even today is one I try to emulate. And after reading the book, I’m a big fan of Norman the businessman. Along with Arnold Palmer, Norman is the golfer I’d most like to sit down and talk to.