Norris Coaches Home Tournament One Last Time
"I want to have everybody keep improving," Norris said about his biggest goal for the season. "That's really about it, it hasn't really changed this year. I don't think anything's changed, I just want the guys to be successful."
In August, Norris announced that his time as head coach for K-State men's golf would come to an end as he plans to retire after this 2013-14 season, and after 16 years with the program, he's ready for one more year of success in purple.
So far this season K-State has competed in two tournaments, the Columbia Regional Preview in Columbia, Mo., and the Saint Mary's Invitational in Seaside, Calif., and has finished eighth and 13th, respectively. On Monday morning the Wildcats will host the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate and play at home for the final time under Norris.
While Norris said he's only focusing on the season and he hasn't gotten too emotional about his retirement yet, playing at Colbert Hills Golf Course, the home of K-State Golf since 2000, has always been extremely special to him.
"The attraction of coming here to K-State (in 1997) was this golf course, and it hadn't even been built yet," Norris explained as he sat in his office, surrounded by pictures and memorabilia collected throughout his coaching career.
Before Colbert Hills, K-State golf practiced and played at Manhattan Country Club, in Junction City and wherever else it could find a course to hit the ball.
Norris' office, back then, was located in Ahearn Field House, and once ground was broken on Colbert Hills, he found himself rushing through work every morning so he could spend the afternoons on the in-the-making golf course.
"It was exciting to see it get built day-by-day," Norris remembered, "I'd come out here as early as I could to watch the bulldozers or watch the architect rework a hole. To watch it evolve, the clubhouse and then the indoor facility, it's been a lot of fun. The golf course has seemed like it's matured over the years, and we haven't really made any changes with it with the exception of the purple sand on the fifth hole - that's kind of a neat touch."
Colbert Hills, which flows through the Flint Hills, is not an easy place to play. Between the strong Kansas winds and the one-of-a-kind layout of the course, it's the Wildcats who will have an edge on Monday when competing in their home tournament.
"If the wind blows when we host our tournament, we think that's an advantage," Norris said, "and we think it's an advantage when we go to another tournament where it's windy. To be able to keep the ball down (in the wind) is a skill that takes a lot of practice."
The annual tournament also provides an opportunity for family, friends and fans to attend the home tournament and cheer the team on.
"Almost all the parents come and we kind of make a weekend out of it," Norris said. "It's good to kind of show our course off to other teams, and this course is quite challenging. With the wind and everything this is not your 'going out to play golf in the park' type deal, this can be adventurous."
So far this season, junior Kyle Weldon has played a key role in the Wildcat lineup. Weldon led his team at the Columbia Regional Preview finishing tied for ninth place at 1-under par. He finished in 25th place at the St. Mary's Invitational earlier this week with a score of 7-over 223, and Norris says Weldon will be, "a vital part of the team this year."
Seniors Daniel Wood, David Klaudt, Tyler Norris and Alex Carney have also come out to compete this season. Wood, returning to the team after spending the past two years on a mission trip, finished the St. Mary's Invitational in 10th place with a final score of 3-over 223, while Carney, Klaudt and Norris finished 70th, 80th and 102nd respectively.
"I've seen good patches in all of them," Norris said about his team as a whole, "it's just a matter of putting the first course together for a round, obviously, that's the challenge of team golf - to get everybody playing well together at the same time, but I think we've got a pretty good squad this year."
Teeing off at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning the Wildcats will take on teams from Central Oklahoma, Creighton, Drake, Grand Canyon, Nebraska-Omaha, Sam Houston State, Southern Illinois and South Dakota. Admission is free and the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate is open to the public.
So, from his first tournament with K-State in 1997, to his last, one thing will remain the same for Norris - K-State, Manhattan and Colbert Hills will always feel like home.
"Some of my fondest memories are when we first played this golf course, the first day we really got out here," Norris said. "It's a place to call home."