Few stare down a shark and live to tell the tale but doing so set Aaron Baddeley on a path to history.
With his HSC exams completed only weeks earlier, an 18-year-old Baddeley faced his greatest test as a young golfer, closing out the national championship as an amateur as the Great White Shark lay in wait in the clubhouse.
Greg Norman’s brilliant birdie at the 72nd hole of the 1999 Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club challenged Baddeley to play mistake-free golf over the closing holes, a challenge he met to earn immediate respect.
Even Norman himself, a five-time winner of the Stonehaven Cup, liked what he saw.
“He has it all,” Norman said after Baddeley became the first amateur to win the Australian Open since Bruce Devlin in 1960.
“You can see it in his eyes.”
Runner-up to Adam Scott in a Greg Norman Junior Masters at Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Golf Club, Baddeley ensured he and Norman’s names would be etched together in history when he claimed the 2001 Greg Norman International at The Lakes Golf Club, besting another rising star in Spain’s Sergio Garcia in a playoff to further entrench his name as one of the brightest prospects in world golf.
Twenty years later Norman selected Baddeley to make his Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne Golf Club and now the pair meet for a place in the semi-finals of our search to identify Australia’s Greatest Golfer.
Like Baddeley, Norman burst onto the Australian golf landscape with fearlessness and daring.
He was 21 years of age when he claimed what would be the first of 89 professional titles at the 1976 West Lakes Classic in Adelaide but his ferocious tee shots and shock of blonde hair had already began to attract attention.
PGA Immortal Charlie Earp honed Norman’s natural aggression to develop him into one of the greatest drivers of the golf ball the world has ever known and a world No.1 for what was then a record of 331 weeks in succession.
He won successive Australian PGA Championships by eight strokes in 1984 and 1985 and the following year broke through for his first win in a major, the 1986 Open Championship at Muirfield.
Norman added a second at Royal St George’s in 1993 but is known as much for his major heartbreaks as he is for his triumphs, defeated in a playoff on four separate occasions at the 1984 US Open, 1987 Masters, 1989 Open and 1993 US PGA Championship.
His playing record is among the greatest the game has ever known and his playing style and ‘Great White Shark’ brand made him the most influential Australian golfer of all time.
Now he has to get past the kid who dared to defy the Shark all those years ago to earn a place in the final four of Australia’s Greatest Golfer.
Career wins: 89
Major wins: 2 (British Open 1986, 1993)
PGA TOUR wins: 20
Australasian Tour wins: 32
Australian Open: Won (1980, 1985, 1987, 1995, 1996)
Australian PGA: Won (1984, 1985)
Round 1 def. Stewart Ginn
Round 2 def. Wayne Grady
Career wins: 8
PGA TOUR wins: 4
Australasian Tour wins: 4
Australian Open: Won (1999, 2000)
Australian PGA: T4 (2011)
Round 1 def. Billy Dunk
Round 2 def. Jim Ferrier