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Good sports make great leaders

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Nicknamed “ The Great White Shark,” pro golfer Greg Norman isn’t all sweetness and light. Still, Norman learned some excellent lessons in sportsmanship from the game of golf.

During his first full year on the PGA Tour in 1984, Norman spent most of the U.S. Open final round trailing the leader, Fuzzy Zoeller. Norman kept gaining, though. On the 18th green, he needed a 40-foot putt to tie Zoeller. Norman knew that he’d make the putt before he hit it. When he did, he ran around the green, putter raised.

Up the fairway came Zoeller, waving a white towel over his head in surrender; he thought Norman had taken the lead.

“I still believe that his gesture was one of the finest acts of sportsmanship I have ever witnessed on a golf course,” Norman says. “After all, he was still in contention.”

That round ended in a tie and the two faced a full 18-hole playoff the next day. Neither player slept well, but in the end, Norman fared poorly and, on the 18th hole, waved a white towel over his head in surrender.

Another time, at the British Open, Norman shot a record 63 on the second day, giving him a two-stroke lead, which he managed to hold by one shot going into the final round. That evening, several players offered encouragement, especially Norman’s hero, Jack Nicklaus, who said, “Greg, there’s no one in the world who wants you to win this tournament more than I do. You deserve to win.”

The next day, after Norman charged to victory, Nicklaus climbed down from the television booth, leaned over the railing and shook his hand, reaffirming his confidence in the Shark.

Lesson: In these days of declining civility, being a good sport is not only the right thing to do, but will be noticed and remembered more than ever.

—Adapted from The Way of the Shark, Greg Norman with Donald Phillips, Simon & Schuster.

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