One of our favourite Australian golfers has taken out the Australian golf's most prestigious individual honour, named after one of Australia's greatest golfers. World Number 13 Marc Leishman has been bestowed the Greg Norman Medal.
Australia’s best performing, male or female, golfer on the international stage in 2017, Leishman won the coveted award following in the footsteps of Jason Day who won the Greg Norman Medal in 2015 and 2016.
“To win the Greg Norman Medal is an incredible honour. Like all Aussie golfers Greg was a hero of mine so to have earned an achievement in his name makes it that much more special,” said Leishman.
“2017 has been an incredible year for my family and me with the birth of our daughter and winning the Greg Norman Medal certainly tops it off.
“It’s a massive honour, I think about all the things Greg Norman has done for me, he’s been such a role model.
"Lifting the Joe Kirkwood Cup on Sunday as the Australian PGA Champion would take it to a new level.”
In 2017 Leishman stood up and made the world take notice. Long heralded in Australia as one of our brightest talents, Leishman has often been overlooked by the international limelight.
But the boy from the ‘Bool created a name for himself winning twice on the PGA TOUR in 2017 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the BMW Championship.
In addition he recorded a further four top-10 results, including a tied sixth at The Open, in 23 tournaments played this year. These brilliant results have seen Leishman reach his highest ever ranking of World Number 13.
Leishman was an integral member of the International Team for The President’s Cup and also represented Australia in the World Cup of Golf at the end of 2016.
Greg Norman couldn’t be on the Gold Coast for the Awards Ceremony but sent Leishman a video message.
“The Greg Norman Medal is presented each year to the Australian golfer who has had the best season. However it’s about more than just performance,” said Norman.
“It is also about recognising an individual who had proudly represented Australia, who has shown true Aussie spirit, who has been determined and dedicated to their craft. Tonight’s recipient personifies all these traits.
“Not only has he won twice on the PGA TOUR, represented his country on the International Team at the President’s Cup and climbed the world rankings, he has also been a dedicated family man. Has shown true determination under pressure and above all else grace when things haven’t gone his way.
“I’m honoured to announce Marc Leishman as the 2017 Greg Norman Medal winner. Marc is an incredible talent but as a laid back Aussie, has often flown under the radar. However this year he’s made the golfing world take notice. Congratulations Marc on an incredible season.”
The other highlight of the evening was PGA Life Members Alex Mercer and Charlie Earp being elevated to Immortal status.
A true character of Australian golf, Earp has nurtured many of the greatest Australian golfing talents the world has seen. Having coached Greg Norman, Wayne Grady, Karrie Webb and Adam Scott amongst many others, Earp is one of Australia’s most recognised golf coaches but his contribution to the game goes well beyond this.
Having completed his PGA Traineeship at Coolangatta Tweed Heads Golf Club and joining the Association in 1945, Earp has more than 59 years of experience within the golf industry where he has made his mark not only as a player but also as a coach.
A PGA Professional since 1956, Mercer completed his PGA Traineeship under Eric Cremin at Roseville Golf Club before going onto to forge a successful career coaching some of Australia and New Zealand’s greatest players, including three Major champions; David Graham, Steve Elkington and Michael Campbell as well as counting Peter O’Malley, Brendan Joneas and Jan Stevenson amongst his pupils.
During his career, Mercer was the Head Professional at Royal Sydney Golf Club for 15 years, the State Coach for the NSW team, NSW colts, South Australian ladies team and Queensland team. Mercer was also the New Zealand National Director of Coaching from 1976 to 1996 which was highlighted by his New Zealand team winning the 1992 Eisenhower Cup.
At 83 years of age, Mercer’s joy for the game has not dulled, he continues to work actively as a coach casting a watchful eye over his clients’ games and providing his understanding of the swing to the next generation of golfers.
Although unable to attend the evening, 1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington shared a message with his long-term coach, who now also coaches his son.
“It all started in 1976 after a long train trip with my brother to Sydney to see the coach that gave us everything we needed,” said Elkington.
“Alex gave me so much hope back then. You go home and practice these things and you'll be that much closer to being a great player.
“That basic message hasn’t changed, except now 40 years later he’s still delivering that message to my son,” added Elkington, who is proud to see his coach inducted as an Immortal of the PGA of Australia.
“Coaching is a different game nowadays and I'm glad these two men here tonight are called Immortals, because this award has delivered a protocol to measure a coach.
“In my case Alex took a boy from Wagga Wagga and over 20 years moulded me into a national champion and a major champion.
“We know what it takes, and we demonstrated it on the largest stages.”
The evening also saw members of the professional golf circuit, corporate world and golf community gather to celebrate the achievements of both Tournament and Vocational PGA Professionals.
The other awards and there winners presented on the evening included:
Australian Club Professional of the Year
Matthew King – Wynnum Golf Club – Queensland
Australian Coach of the Year
Denis McDade – Yarra Bend Golf – Victoria
2016 PGA Coaching Achievement Award
Colin Swatton – Colin Swatton Golf – Queensland
Australian Club Manager of the Year
Stephen Hutchison – Twins Waters Golf Club – Queensland
Australian Teaching Professional of the Year
Christian Hamilton – Golf Australia and Golf Victoria – Victoria
Australian PGA Trainee of the Year
Ben Pisani – Indooroopilly Golf Club – Queensland
ALPG Player of the Year
Hannah Green – Western Australia
Legends Tour Player of the Year
Brad Burns – Queensland
ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year
Dimitrios Papadatos – New South Wales