Little Master passes away peacefully - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Little Master passes away peacefully

By Wayne Heming 21/05/2007 01:56:07 AM Comments (0)

Australian golf lost its godfather when fiery trailblazer Norman Von Nida passed away peacefully aged 93 at his Gold Coast nursing home.

The Von, as he was affectionately known, had been ill for the past two months.

He died with members of his family by his bedside.

A charismatic little man, Von Nida was the Don Bradman of golf.

He was known for his quick temper as player but would be more fondly remembered for the kindness he showed any young aspiring golfer who approached him for help or advice.

"He was a grand old guy, so kind to so many people," said Australian golf coach Ian Triggs, summing Von Nida up to a tee.

"Everyone loved his stories and how he told them,

"He was very special and as a player. He always fought above his weight."

Von Nida blazed a trail overseas, especially through Europe for many Australians to follow, finishing second on its Order of Merit at his first attempt in 1946.

He came home in 1947 and won seven tournaments, topping the Australian Order of Merit which he did many times.

When he retired he'd won three Australian Opens and four Australian PGA Championships and notched more than 80 titles worldwide.

Born at Strathfield in Sydney in 1914, his family moved to Brisbane soon after.

He turned professional in 1933, after attracting attention by winning the Queensland Amateur at the age of 18.

He went on to become one of Australia's finest professionals and the first Australian to win regularly on the British tour.

World War II deprived him of competition during what would have been his peak years.

His renowned short temper saw him almost come to blows with US Ryder Cup player Henry Ransom in 1948 which resulted in the local sheriff having to pull the two golfers apart.

The Von was also known to hurl his putter into the undergrowth after missing putts, on occasions breaking or even losing them mid-round.

He was presented with a life membership of the Australasian PGA Tour in December 2005 when Australia's second-tier circuit for up and coming players was named in his honour.

He was still playing in his early 90s, despite being legally blind, using iridescent yellow balls and similar paint on top of his clubs.

People would marvel how he could "watch" a young player hit the ball and tell him where it went even though he couldn't see, his feel and instincts for the game were so wonderful.

His family's decision to settle at Pinkenba near the Brisbane river shaped their son's life.

Royal Queensland Golf Course was on the other side of the river and his house was opposite some horse stables.

His two great loves were golf and horse racing.

His father got him a job at the local meat works which helped him with his golf and to earn money to help raise a family of eight children.

Von Nida hit world golfing headlines in 1934 when he beat the world's number one player Gene Sarazen in an exhibition match at Royal Queensland when he was the Caddy Champion.

Standing 165cm in spikes, Von Nida scraped up the 50 pounds ($100) needed to challenge Sarazen who'd won all four majors and was ranked No.1 in the world when he ventured out to Australia.

He shot a brilliant 67 but always claimed the upset win was a "fluke" even though he regards his round that day as the best golf of his life.

"I asked Mr Sarazen over a beer afterwards in the clubhouse if he thought I could one day be a player like him, travelling the world and what it would take?" Von Nida told AAP in an interview.

"He said to me: `little man, who did you just beat today?'.

"I said: `you Mr Sarazen' and he said `that's right, and I am the best in the world."

Golf journalist and close friend Bruce Young was the last man to play with The Von at Lakelands in May 2005.

"I think every Australian golfer probably owes him some sort of debt of gratitude because he led the way into Europe," said Young.

"He was a feisty trailblazer prepared to take on anything and anyone."

He is survived by his daughter, Keiri, her husband Steven and grand-children. Holly, Tom, Beckett and Roendan.

His funeral is expected to be held in Brisbane on Friday.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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