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Trump, Norman leave lasting impression on and off course

By Ron Green Jr
Correspondent
Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr., a former Observer staff writer, will write golf columns occasionally for the newspaper.

MOORESVILLE There I stood, on the 10th tee at Trump National Golf Club, with The Donald himself behind me and Greg Norman – yes, that Greg Norman – standing directly across from me waiting to see me hit my opening tee shot in our little friendly game together last week.

As I settled in to hit my opening shot on the tree-lined, 490-yard par-4, trying to ignore the few hundred people watching us, I remembered to concentrate on fundamentals.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Never have I been happier to see a tee shot get airborne, gently hook and settle just off the fairway in a patch of thick bermuda rough, approximately 260 yards from where I stood.

As I said to Golf World editor Jaime Diaz, who was also in our foursome, this will be fun when it’s over.

And it was.

Norman and Trump were at what was formerly known as The Point Golf and Lake Club last Friday to introduce the expansive changes made to the course Norman designed 14 years ago.

It was the first time Norman had seen the course since it opened and one of the few times he’s seen his golf clubs recently. He said it was his third round of golf since April and the rust was evident, though we’d all love to be that rusty when we played.

He’s spent much of his summer at his estate in the Colorado Rockies and smiled when he said he had gone 10 weeks without getting on an airplane, his longest stretch on the ground since 1995.

When asked if he’s interested in joining Fox Sports’ new golf team that will take over the U.S. Open telecasts in 2015, Norman talked about what the network plans to do without giving away any secrets, including whether he will be part of the broadcast team.

He has the potential to be excellent in the booth because he’s opinionated, intelligent and speaks from a perspective unlike any other. Norman remains one of the most dynamic figures in professional golf over the past 50 years, and only Tiger Woods has been ranked No. 1 for more weeks than the Shark.

It was odd to see Norman as the second-biggest star in his own foursome, but Trump is Trump.

When he bought the property more than a year ago, he gave it the full Trump makeover, which means he believes it has the best of everything.

The best location. The best TifEagle greens. The best sand in the bunkers. The best water bottles with The Donald’s face on them.

Trump has built a legend and a fortune on his brand, and he’s proud of both. He loves golf and now owns 14 courses, including the one on the banks of Lake Norman. The Point was good before but, like many golf-related things after the recession, it struggled. Trump has given it a new look and life.

During our afternoon together, I asked Trump if he believed the old adage that you can learn more about a person on the golf course than in a meeting room. It’s true, Trump said, and I agree with him.

What did I learn about Trump playing seven holes (a thunderstorm shortened our round) with him, then sitting around a big table with him for an hour after our round?

I liked being around him. We didn’t talk politics or broker a deal. We played golf together. We hit some good shots and we hit some not-so-good shots.

He’s a good player. He rarely misses fairways and can hit it plenty long enough. He likes to play fast, likes to talk while he plays and seems to really enjoy being on the golf course. He was fun to play with and I appreciate the fact he conceded me a couple of 4-footers for par.

Sure, he’s boastful but he’s Trump. When he was asked how much of what the public sees is an act, Trump acknowledged he plays the role at times.

He talks about business deals as casually as most of us talk about what we had for lunch. He talks about $400million here, $600million there. He drops into conversation that he has $1billion in cash in the bank. He believes golf courses succeed in large part because of that old real estate adage – location, location, location – and cites examples good and bad.

Trump cares about the game and its future but admits that he doesn’t cater to grassroots golfers. He caters to the upper end because that’s what he does. When he changed the name of The Point to Trump National Charlotte, it changed the image and spiked the interest level, Trump said.

He’s right.

Trump is proud of what he’s doing at Doral in Miami, where he blew up the hotel and the golf course, giving the famous resort a much needed facelift, with Gil Hanse designing the new layout. He believes his new course in Scotland is the best in golf’s homeland, though it created a firestorm of controversy.

You can tell the game has a hold on him. Too bad a storm kept us from playing the second nine. It would have been fun.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post ( www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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