Australia’s Greatest Golfer: Greg Norman v Ian Baker-Finch

They achieved golf immortality with the way they played but they did it in vastly different ways.

Both hailing from south-east Queensland and entering the professional ranks in the late 1970s, Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch’s similarities led some to label Baker-Finch ‘the Dark Shark’, a more olive-skinned equivalent of the Great White Shark already taking chunks out of the game’s best players.

Open champions both, there was a ruthless aggression to the way Norman approached the game that the more mild-mannered Baker-Finch just didn’t possess.

Where Norman used power and fearlessness to amass 89 professional wins around the world, Baker-Finch’s was a more subtle style, happy to deftly manipulate the relationship between clubhead and golf ball to subdue golf courses rather than smash it into oblivion.

For one magic week in 1991 – and a spectacular weekend of shot-making in particular – it cemented Baker-Finch’s place in the annals of golf history, his career resume also boasting wins on the PGA TOUR, European Tour and 10 on the PGA Tour of Australasia, the first of which was the 1983 New Zealand Open.

Ill-fated swing changes and a willingness to take advice from all and sundry led to a sudden fall from grace for Baker-Finch yet it was Norman’s stubbornness that proved to be both a blessing and a curse.

Arriving hot on the heels of the ‘Golden Bear’ Jack Nicklaus, Norman was so much more than a golfer.

He was a marketer’s dream, a superstar who rubbed shoulders with presidents and kings of business and who played in a manner that inspired countless kids across the globe to pick up a club, don anything with a shark logo and ‘Attack Life’.

Six years after taking up the game Norman turned professional in 1976 and in his fourth start on the Australasian tour won the West Lakes Classic in Adelaide by five strokes, leaving the likes of David Graham, Graham Marsh and Bruce Devlin in his wake.

It signalled the birth of a sporting phenomenon who would single-handedly elevate golf to previously unimaginable popularity in Australia for the next two decades.

Such was Norman’s influence that golf administrators would declare that a lull in golf interest would be remedied by the ‘next Greg Norman’ that came along.

We have had wonderful players emerge since Norman was at the height of his powers but there will always only ever be one Great White Shark.

To cast your vote for either Greg Norman or Ian Baker-Finch visit the PGA of Australasia Twitter page.

Greg Norman                                                                
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
Round 3 def. Aaron Baddeley
Quarter-Final def. Marc Leishman

Ian Baker-Finch
Career wins: 17
Major wins: 1 (1991 Open Championship)
PGA TOUR wins: 2
European Tour wins: 2
Australasian Tour wins: 10
Australian Open: 2nd (1983)
Australian PGA: Won (1993)
Round 1 def. Brett Rumford
Round 2 def. Greg Chalmers
Round 3 def. David Graham
Quarter-Final def. Steve Elkington

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