20 May 2021 | Professional golf |

The PGA: Grady's 'bloody beauty'

by PGA of Australia

 Wayne Grady PGA image
Wayne Grady holes the winning putt at the 1990 US PGA Championship. Photo: Getty

By Tony Webeck

Along with Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s proclamation following the 1983 America’s Cup victory there could hardly be a more Aussie celebration of a great sporting moment than Wayne Grady’s reaction to his 1990 US PGA Championship triumph. “You bloody beauty.” At a time when Aussies were excelling both in Europe and in America, Grady was not among his country’s best eight players. With Norman out in front as world No.1, Rodger Davis, Craig Parry, Peter Senior, Mike Harwood, Peter Fowler, Ian Baker-Finch and Brett Ogle were all among the top 50 players in the world, Grady not far behind at No.55. A runner-up on 29 occasions prior to his Major breakthrough, Grady told The Tribune three weeks after his Shoal Creek heroics that the experiences between the two were vastly different. “There’s not a great deal of difference in what you’ve got to do to win,” Grady offered. “But the difference in winning and finishing second is amazing. “You finish second so many times and don’t get any recognition for it. But you win something and it’s changed completed.” WHAT CAME BEFORE Two years Greg Norman’s junior coming through the same golf club in Brisbane and sharing the coaching mastery of PGA Immortal Charlie Earp, Grady revelled in the role of the Aussie battler, taking on those supposedly bigger and better and putting them in their place. He wasn’t a regular winner on the PGA TOUR – the good life is for living, after all – but the greater the occasion the more Grady got up for the fight, defeating Norman at the fourth hole of a playoff at the 1988 Australian PGA Championship. He and Norman both fell to Mark Calcavecchia in the playoff to determine the 1989 Open Championship winner and with a breakthrough US PGA TOUR title two months prior at the Westchester Classic Grady arrived at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama as an underdog ready to bite off more than most thought he could chew. HOW IT UNFOLDED

With gnarly rough and putting surfaces that players said reacted differently to approach shots from one hole to the next, Nick Faldo declared that “whoever hits their drive on a string will be at the top of the leaderboard”. As Norman all but played himself out of contention with an opening round of 5-over 77, Grady plotted his way to an even-par round to sit two back of first round leader Bobby Wadkins, announcing himself as a genuine threat late on day two. Birdies from 10 and 30 feet respectively on the second and fourth holes showed Grady cared little for talk of Shoal Creek’s treacherous greens and he picked up two more shots before the turn at holes six and nine. Grady’s lone bogey came after he found the rough with his tee shot at the par-4 12th but birdies at 16 and 17 saw the Queenslander take sole ownership of the lead with the low round of the tournament, a 5-under 67. “I don’t drive it long so I have to hit it straight,” Grady said post-round. “Short and crooked won’t last long out here.” The 54-hole leader at the 1989 Open Championship, Grady doubled his one-stroke advantage at the halfway mark courtesy of an even par round of 72 in the third round, a bogey at the final hole preventing his lead from being even greater than his two-shot buffer to Payne Stewart and Fred Couples. And the question was asked; could he close it out on Sunday after his Open heartbreak 12 months earlier? “I think this will be more difficult than the Open last year because of the driving,” Grady said. When Stewart arrived at the golf course on Sunday wearing the colours of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, others such as Grady saw Aussie green and gold. “A good omen,” he would admit later. But it was anything but a pressure-free procession towards a Sunday coronation. As Grady’s steady play continued Couples broke from the pack to assume the lead, only to hitch a four-hole ride on the bogey train to hand it straight back to the unassuming Queenslander. As others stumbled around him Grady parred each of the final seven holes to complete a three-stroke victory and bury the demons that come with 29 career runner-up finishes. “I may not seem too excited but believe me, I am,” Grady told the press afterwards. “It was just such a grind I was not going to get too far ahead of myself.” After a somewhat muted celebration on the 18th green Grady was met by playing partner Stewart, who told him, “Congratulations. This is going to change your life.” “You look at that trophy and there are some great players who have won it,” Grady told the assembled media. “And it doesn’t matter how hard you scratch that thing, they won’t be able to get my name off it.” WHAT FOLLOWED NEXT

Later that year Grady was a member of the Australasian team along with Ian Baker-Finch, Rodger Davis, Brian Jones, Craig Parry and Peter Senior that won the Four Tours World Championship. He won a second Australian PGA Championship in November 1991, won the 1993 Indonesia PGA Championship and was twice a winner of the HANDA Australian Senior Open in 2007 and 2008. As his playing days wound down Grady developed a wide range of business interests, starting a golf course design company, becoming a popular public speaker, working in television commentary and running an event management company that continues today. Grady was elected into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame in 2009 and served as the Chairman of the PGA of Australia.

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