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The Loop

It's Norman's show, but Thomson's legacy

November 18, 2011

Peter Thomson awards trophy to Australian Open winner Greg Chalmers last week (Getty Images Photo)

Greg Norman is a commanding presence at the Presidents Cup and beyond. His is the face of Australian golf, the dashing Great White Shark, who for the better part of two decades mesmerized us equally with his gifts and gaffes.

Now 56, he has gracefully assumed the position of elder statesman, which he is playing out this week as the captain of the International team attempting to coax only its second victory of the nine Presidents Cup that have been played and first since 1998. That he has the opportunity to do so Down Under has cast him in a leading role in the drama unfolding at Royal Melbourne.

Though he has earned his standing in golf -- comfortably residing among the legends, certainly, pratfalls notwithstanding -- it is easy to forget this week that Australian golf did not begin with Norman, easier still to forget that it did begin with Peter Thomson.

The most celebrated Australian in golf history, Thomson won the British Open five times, three consecutively (1954 through '56), and in a seven-year span did not finish worse than second. Moreover, he once was the professional at Royal Melbourne and captained the International team to its only Presidents Cup victory there in 1998.

Thomson, 82, ranks the Presidents Cup victory "the biggest thing I ever did in my life," he once said, placing it ahead of a playing career that included national championships of 10 different countries and landed him in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.

Earlier this week, Thomson addressed the importance of the Presidents Cup victory with Brent Read of the Australian.

"It was a very joyous occasion," Thomson told Read. "To be captain of that bunch of young players was a wonderful experience for me. The other things are very selfish things -- there is no one to bother you and sometimes you win. But playing with a team is something different. It's belonging. Everybody wants to belong -- family, church, something. This is the only way you do it in golf for those who are not Europeans or Americans, to belong to a Presidents Cup team."

Thomson obviously will never forget it. Neither should we.

-- John Strege