Norman opens headquarters of golf academies in North Myrtle Beach

August 21, 2012 

— The number of businesses Greg Norman has created is seemingly approaching the number of golf tournaments he has won in one of the game’s most notable playing careers.

The Great White Shark from Australia has won 91 pro tournaments worldwide, including a pair of British Opens, and his legend has been enhanced by several heartbreaking losses in major championships.

For all he has done on the course, he has become involved in businesses that include clothing, sunglasses, beef, wine, restaurants, land and housing development, GPS systems, golf course design, turf, and event promotion and operation.

Golf instruction is one of Norman’s latest endeavors, and he now has a headquarters for what he believes will become a series of teaching academies that will house and instruct students.

He flew into and out of North Myrtle Beach on Tuesday for the grand opening of the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy facility at Barefoot Golf Resort’s driving range.

The 10,000-square-foot building has been in the making since Norman first put his name on a smaller golf instruction facility at Long Bay Club in the spring of 2010.

“You’re excited about a day like today, there’s no question about it,” Norman said. “A lot of people have been waiting for this day since 2010. A lot of time, effort and energy has gone into this, and we’re all confident that we can take this to the next level and just develop and grow other academies and satellite academies.”

Based on his previous business success, who can doubt him?

Norman and Jose Manuel Fernandez, the academy’s managing partner, have traveled extensively together and separately to consider other academy sites and recruit students. The trips have included Asia, Europe, Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, and both the east and west coasts of the U.S.

Satellite possibilities thus far include Cancun, Mexico; Atlanta; Jupiter, Fla.; Hawaii; and British Columbia, Canada. Norman and Fernandez met with a possible satellite host Tuesday at Barefoot. “Expansion is going to happen after this,” Fernandez said. “We were waiting for people to actually see what we were able to do and what we’re looking to have as the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy.”

Norman said possible academy locations are extensive. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem rolling it out,” Norman said. “Our problem is making sure we get in the right places with all the offers we’ve got coming across our table.”

Great White Shark Enterprises, the umbrella company for all of Norman’s businesses, is based in West Palm Beach, Fla. So why choose Myrtle Beach for the headquarters of his teaching academies? Norman calls Myrtle Beach the “hub of the game of golf” with approximately 100 courses, and he already has Greg Norman’s Australian Grille at Barefoot Landing and two courses he designed: the Norman Course at Barefoot Resort and the private Reserve Club in Pawleys Island.

“The restaurant was here and I had great connections here with [Barefoot Resort and Barefoot Landing owner] Sam Puglia, so it was just a natural for us to do it,” Norman said. “… People like to eat and people like to play golf, so it’s not hard to figure out why I’m here.”

Norman said he plans to return to the academy “at least once a year. You have to be committed. It’s the same in anything I do; with your name on the door, you have to come back and check on what’s going on. You’d better make sure the product that is out there is the product that you want, which is great players coming out of here.”

The 10,000-square-foot clubhouse is believed to be the second largest golf academy in the U.S. It houses a gym featuring Cybex equipment, two classrooms, one meeting room, boys and girls locker rooms, three covered indoor/outdoor hitting bays, six offices, and a club repair and storage room.

The practice area includes a driving range that has a hitting area approximately 75 yards long and 25 yards deep, and 14 measured target greens. It also includes an 8,000-square-foot putting green, 1,000-square-foot flat putting green, 6,000-square-foot chipping green, and three practice bunkers with greens set up for 10-, 30-, 45- and 70-yard shots.

Fernandez said the academy has 10 full-time students, five touring professionals playing out of the academy, and a student from Italy beginning a seven-month stay in November. It will have hourly and day lessons for the general public.

Scott Shobe is the director of instruction, as he has been for a few years at the Long Bay Club academy. Workers are still putting the finishing touches on some of the rooms, and Shobe’s staff will begin utilizing the building Monday.

The academy has an agreement with Barefoot Golf Resort for student rounds on its four courses and student meals at either the Barefoot clubhouse or an incoming restaurant that is taking up the space vacated by the recently closed Barefoot Bar & Grill.

“His success is our success,” Barefoot Golf Resort general manager Dave Genevro said.

Academy students are currently housed at The Farm housing development in Carolina Forest. Fernandez, a native of Mexico who moved to the Grand Strand two years ago, said Puglia has been discussing with hotel companies the building of a time share or condo building on the north side of the range, and Fernandez hopes to lease a floor for his students if a building is eventually built.

“We’re still talking. It’s a hope we can actually manage with them to make it happen,” said Fernandez, who has set a maximum of 78 students. “It will be nice for the kids.”

Touring pro Sam Lyons, a graduate of North Myrtle Beach High and Coastal Carolina, has been receiving instruction at the academy at the Long Bay location since November. “I think they have a great future here with the new building. I’m very impressed with everything,” Lyons said. “I think they’ll draw a lot more students because it’s in a better place. … It’s a great building; a great place to get better.”

Norman, 57, said he is still developing other businesses, and doesn’t believe teaching will become a passion for him. He can envision himself as more of a player’s mentor than teacher, and believes he has more to offer the academy’s students than a keen eye for the swing, considering his business acumen and life experiences.

“I mean, there’s so much information I’ve gathered from my experiences of playing the game of golf, of going through life, of understanding business and all that stuff,” Norman said. “I am actually shocked to this day how some people don’t come and tap into that. I did with [Jack] Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. I thought it would be stupid of me to not pick the brains of the best. I’ve done it with presidents and CEOs.

“We’ve got good coaches here. The coaches know exactly the ABCs of physical execution of swinging a golf club, but the coaches do not have the experiences I’ve garnered. … I notice when I talk to the kids they’re standing right there to try to listen to what I’m saying. They’re learning from that as well. That’s what a great academy is all about.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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