BOLTON, Mass – Greg Norman wanted to make a memorable first impression with golf fans at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Boston at the International on Friday.
It’s safe to say that he did, in a “Top Gun” moment that only Greg Norman is capable of.
Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, parachuted with a member of the Frog-X Navy SEAL team onto the first fairway just before the 1:15 p.m. shotgun start of the LIV Golf Invitational at the International Golf Club.
After a member of the Frog-X Navy Seal team with the American flag and another with a LIV Golf banner parachuted onto the first fairway, Norman and his parachute partner made their grand entrance, sliding along the grass as they landed with music blaring from loudspeakers on the first tee.
“It was really cool,” Norman told newengland.golf. “We’ve been talking about it now for a couple of weeks. The timing was right to do it here, the weather was perfect to do it here.”
The 67-year-old Norman, winner of 89 professional events, including two British Open titles, wanted to kick off this event with a bang.
“It happened very fast, quite honestly,” he said while wearing a white International golf cap, “but he was letting me control the parachute, do the turns and all that stuff, which is cool.”
Ryan Arsenault, 38, lives in Bolton off Ballville Road, which leads to the club said he and his father, Larry, received free tickets from the local police. He was wowed by Norman’s parachute drop.
“I told my dad, ‘I don’t think the PGA Tour does that,’” Ryan Arsenault said. “Pretty amazing.”
The U.S. Open was held at The Country Club in Brookline in June, but the PGA Tour no longer plays at TPC Boston in Norton. So Norman was happy to return professional golf to the Boston area on Labor Day weekend.
“I just know Boston is a great city,” he said. “I’ve been a huge Boston Celtics fan, I’m a huge Larry Bird fan. I used to fly from Australia for the weekend to watch the Celtics play back in the ’80s. So I have a really good affinity here.”
His daughter and son-in-law both graduated from Boston College.
“So I’ve got a lot of close associations in Boston,” he said, “and just to bring golf back here was really important to me. Just look at the fans and the support we’ve got out here and it just shows you golf is a force for good and we’re just happy to be here.”
Shergo Al Kurdi hit the initial tee shot off the first tee on Friday in front of a sizable gallery after replacing Henrik Stenson, who withdrew for medical reasons. Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson played with Kurdi.
Matt Foley, assistant golf pro at Green Hill Municipal Golf Course in Worcester, purchased a LIV Golf shirt and two LIV ball markers in the merchandise tent before play began.
“I’ve played the International my whole life, a bunch of times,” said Foley, 25. “To see the players come to a place like this is really cool that’s so close to us at home.”
Ryan Arsenault was struck by the difference between this LIV Golf event and a PGA Tour event.
“I can tell it’s a lot more fun,” he said. “Everyone is a lot more loose. There’s loud music. There’s activity happening.”
Larry Arsenault, 72, of Leominster doesn’t blame the golfers for accepting huge money up front to play LIV Golf.
“Why wouldn’t you jump? You’d be crazy not to,” Arsenault said. “You’re getting guaranteed money. There’s no cut.
“PGA players that said, ‘I’d never do that.’ The next day, the next week, there they are, ‘Where do I sign?’” Arsenault said.
A total of 48 players will play 54 holes this weekend after shotgun starts. There is no cut and everyone is guaranteed to earn at least $120,000. The total purse is $25 million, $4 million of which will go to the individual winner and $3 million of which will be divided by the first-place, four-man team.
Rick Freeman, 64, of Lancaster has been a member of the International for 12 years and he’s volunteering to shuttle pros from the range to their holes for the shotgun start.
“From my standpoint as a member here, it’s been nothing but great,” he said. “It’s been awesome and we lost our golf course for two weeks. So we have no golf course for two weeks and I still think it’s awesome.”
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