Scott's Masters win was still being talked about Tuesday at Harbour Town. (How/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Australian Stuart Appleby still remembers the first time he met Adam Scott.
Scott, 15 years old at the time, was playing in a junior event run by Greg Norman. Another Australian, Aaron Baddeley, was 3 under and finished second to Scott -- 15 strokes behind him.
“I had no idea who (Scott) was,” recalled Appleby as he stood on the range at Harbour Town Golf Links for this week’s RBC Heritage. “I’m like, ‘What the (expeletive) is going on? So what’s this kid’s name?’ Ten years later he was a world-class player.”
And the first Masters champion from Down Under.
Eight times Australians had finished second at Augusta National, three times by Norman. Now the sporting nation with a population of just 22 million, had its first Green Jacket.
“In 1996, I think all of Australia went into mourning when (Norman) didn’t win,” Baddeley said. “because everyone thought he was going to win.”
Appleby called it the biggest injection of golf excitement in Australia since the 1990s, when Norman was No. 1 in the world for six straight years.
“It’s been very quiet since; sounds of crickets compared to Greg brought to the game for a while,” Appleby said. “All of us could say we had our initial roots of love for the game through Greg.”
Now Appleby hopes Scott will have the same impact.
So far, he’s off to a good start.
Just how big was Scott's win to Australia? The Prime Minister’s national address was interrupted on Monday with the news that Scott had won the Masters.
“With what Adam did, I reckon we could get that,” Appleby continued. “He’s got a Hall-of-Fame career in front of him, he’s a world-class player, he’s a gentleman, a great guy and he’s handsome damn it.
“I would love to see if we could measure golf’s participation; if there’s a bit of kick, a bit of interest, a bit of ‘Mum, I want to go to the range.’”
Appleby added that Australia has “struggled to make golf work” economically in recent years and noted that prize money in Australian events has dropped, too.
“This is just what we needed,” he said. “I’d hate to put undue pressure on Adam, but I hope he can represent golf in Australia for many years to come.”
Whatever happens, Appleby is just happy for his fellow Aussie.
“I’m hugely proud it was his first and Australia’s first,” Appleby said. “I woke up the next morning and it was first thing I was thinking about. Good on him, that’s all we can say.”