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IT'S 11:40 a.m., Atlantic time, when the famous couple scrambles out of a chartered helicopter, crouching beneath the decelerating rotors. They have landed on a paradise shore of palms and gentle breakers, a place for lovers to oil up and sizzle in the sun—only not today, because the site is overrun with growling front loaders, banging dump trucks and beeping backhoes, along with a small army of sweaty, muscled men who seem bent on moving rocks and sand from the shore over to a distant riverbank, and vice versa. A TV crew and a backpedaling knot of photographers and reporters greet the Shark and his bride, who have donned socks and sneakers.
Norman has designed more than 70 golf courses on six continents, so he knows the drill. He voices his pleasure at being back in the Dominican Republic, explains that the billion-dollar Costa Blanca development will offer residents a pleasing mix of condo towers and fairway villas, plus a mega-yacht marina and a Chris Evert Tennis Center. He expresses confidence that his Costa Blanca course, nine holes of which are already roughed in, will rival any tropical track in the world for beauty while providing a challenging but fair test to golfers of all skill levels. The Shark then gives Evert an off-to-work kiss and strides to the west with McCoy and a work-booted foreman, while Evert heads north with the white-shirted developers and their aides—causing panic among the journos as they weigh which celebrity to follow.
Those who pursue Evert wind up on a dusty stretch of landfill by the river, where Steve Ankrom, Costa Blanca's sales veep, points to an imagined tennis clubhouse and 10 imagined courts. He wants her recommendation for the residential component. Town houses? Cottages? "Off the top of my head, tennis villas are a big thing," she replies, trying to picture a garden complex with balconies overlooking a yacht harbor. "Two or three bedrooms, that comes to mind." Court types? "Kids like to play on the hard courts, and a lot of tournaments are on hard. Obviously, clay is easier on the body for the club player and older person."
Ankrom has to be nervous—this is November 2008, when the market for leisure properties is collapsing like a house of CDOs—but he expresses an almost religious faith that Norman and Evert will fulfill his dreams. "It's all about branding," he says, gazing at the distant silhouette of the Shark, unmistakable at 200 yards. "With so many big projects in the world, you've got to set yourself apart."
The sun is near its zenith by the time Norman finishes his site visit. The helicopter's next touchdown is just up the coast, at the Metro Country Club, where a hotel suite has been reserved for the sweaty couple. After a quick shower and a change into resort casual, the twosome saunters onto the clubhouse veranda, where a crowd has gathered for their press conference. Norman speaks first, trading eights with his interpreter, and then Evert takes over. "Buenos dias," she says, and then in English, "I'll translate for people who don't understand Spanish," giving the Shark a sideways glance. He grins.
During the Q&A, Evert is asked to compare Norman's tennis with her golf game. "Greg's been playing for two years," she replies. "He's very quick on his feet, he has great hand-eye coordination and he's very competitive. So he's picked up tennis very quickly." She adds, "I don't play golf, but wait till I do!" It's a spunky line, but in private Evert will admit that she was embarrassed years ago when she topped her ball off the 1st tee at a pro-am. "I can't simply dabble in something," she says after the press conference. "But Greg"—and here she gives the Shark another one of those I-could-eat-you-for-breakfast looks—"is exceptional."
That past weekend, in fact, Norman played in his first tennis pro-am, a charity match for 5,000 spectators at the Delray Beach (Fla.) Tennis Center. (The Shark and Justin Gimelstob defeated Evert and comedian Billy Crystal 7--5.) The next day Norman partnered with Greg Jr., a professional kiteboarder who will caddie for his father at the Masters, at the ADT Skills Challenge in Aventura, Fla. The Shark won the putting and short-pitching categories with hole outs and then watched Junior steal the finale by hitting a 111-yard pitching wedge to within an inch of the hole.
"How'd it go?" Evert asked afterward.
"We won the event. We won $290,000."
"Oh. Nice weekend, honey."