Two of Queensland’s most accomplished champions go head-to-head as Adam Scott takes on Norman von Nida in the second round of our search for Australia’s Greatest Golfer.
Adam Scott wins most of the popular votes in which he’s involved yet Norman von Nida made a career out of defying the odds.
Two of the all-time greats of Australian golf face off in Round 2 in our search for Australia’s Greatest Golfer, a match-up that will test the loyalties of Queenslanders and old-timers alike.
A whip of a man with hardened forearms that Craig Parry would be proud of, the diminutive von Nida was standing up to the best players in the world first as a teenage caddie at Royal Queensland and later as a pioneer for Aussie golfers travelling to Europe to further their careers.
He won the Australian PGA Championship four times in the space of six years and three Australian Opens between 1950-1953 yet it was his almost mystical understanding of the relationship between clubhead and golf ball that made him such a revered figure within Australian golf.
Even as his eyes failed him von Nida could offer instruction to the likes of Gary Player, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo purely by the sound the ball made as it soared into the distance and is regarded by the game’s most notable names as a genius of bunker play.
His sometimes gruff nature would impact his ability to win a popularity contest yet three-time PGA champion Peter Senior has no doubt that von Nida belongs in the highest of company when talking of our country’s greatest golfers.
“When you talk about great players you’re always going to talk about von Nida,” said Senior, who has a fight of his own in Round 2 having drawn Karrie Webb.
“As a fighter, you couldn’t get anyone more dog-determined than he was.
“I used to play with ‘The Von’ at Redcliffe Golf Club every Friday.
“His eyesight was going by that stage but he still never missed a shot.
“He’d tee it up and hit it down there and turn and say, ‘Where did that go?’ You’d tell him that it went out of bounds and he’d fire back with, ‘Not it didn’t!’ He knew exactly where it went.
“Gary Edwin used to do a few seminars and clinics with Moe Norman in Canada and he said there was no better ball-striker than that guy. The Von had that aura about him as well.
“It’s amazing how some guys just adapt to the game.”
Given that von Nida’s career straddled World War II and the US was largely a closed shop, opportunities to pay in major championships were scarce yet in three straight years from 1946 he finished no worse than a tie for sixth at The Open Championship, his best a tie for third in 1948.
But amongst all his accomplishments – including a seven-win season in Europe in 1947 – a major win proved elusive, an achievement Senior has no doubt would have advanced his standing among our most feted champions.
“Majors put the spotlight on you. If he’d won a major then the spotlight might have been more on him,” Senior said.
“Our greatest, most accomplished player is Peter Thomson and then you’ve got Karrie Webb and Greg Norman. Then you’ve got Wayne Grady, Ian Baker-Finch, Geoff Ogilvy, all people who have won majors and they are in a different category than everybody else.
“You can be a good player – you can be a great player – but until you’re a multiple major winner I don’t think you can put yourself in that category where people put you on a pedestal.”
Norman von Nida
Career wins: 48
European Tour wins: 14
Australasian Tour wins: 32
Australian Open: Won (1950, 1952, 1953)
Australian PGA: Won (1946, 1948, 1950, 1951)
Career wins: 31
Major wins: 1 (2013 Masters)
PGA TOUR wins: 14
Australasian Tour wins: 6
Australian PGA: Won (2013, 2019)
Australian Open: Won (2009)