Norris Reflects on Wildcat Career

On his desk sat a small Pebble Beach card holder - a golf course he once carded a remarkable second round score of 64 to win the PGA Tour's Spalding Invitational Pro-Am - and on a shelf nearby stood a golf bag with the name Aaron Watkins stitched into it - a player he coached at K-State into a PGA Tour golfer.
After nine years competing professionally and spending the past 24 years coaching collegiately - 17 of those at K-State - Norris announced prior to the 2013-14 season that he would retire after his 17th year at the helm.
Sporting a tanned nose and evident sunglass' tan line - a trademark golfer look after his long hours on the course with K-State men's golf team - Norris leaned back began to reminisce.
You see, in his first season at K-State, Colbert Hills, the world-class course where his team now calls home, was nonexistent. It was just plans on paper. Back then, Norris had an office tucked away in Ahearn Field House and his team bounced from golf course to golf course around Manhattan for practice.
Fast-forward to today, and much has changed since Colbert Hills opened its doors in August 2000. However, Norris said those early days of watching the golf course being constructed were some of his fondest memories during his Wildcat career.
"Watching the golf course get built from day one was an experience," Norris said. "I would spend a little time in my office every day, but then I'd get out here as fast as I could while they were building and the architects were out here shaping each hole. I'll never forget how fun that was."
The plans for the up and coming Colbert Hills were enough to draw Norris from his head coach position at UTEP in 1997 to K-State, however, it wasn't just the promising future of K-State golf that excited him about the job.  With two young children - his daughter Ashley, then in second grade, and his son Tyler, then in kindergarten - Norris, a native of Fresno, Calif., wanted to find the perfect town to raise a family.
He found that in Manhattan. 
"I think more than anything, when I made the decision to come here, it was more of a lifestyle thing," he explained thinking back to his decision nearly two decades ago. "It's a small, Midwestern college town and my kids were young. We thought it would be a great place to raise a family, and it's been like a fairytale growing up here."
After growing up in the Little Apple, Norris' son, Tyler, decided to attend K-State as a member of the men's golf team. While Norris laughed and said sometimes it was a challenge having to balance being a dad and a coach, he said it is an experience he wouldn't trade for anything.
"It's been a blast," said Tyler, a senior graduating this May, about having his dad as his coach. "Obviously he's kind of had to put on the coach hat first since I've been here, then put the dad hat on on the weekends when I go home, but it's been fun. He treats me like all the rest of the players and I like that." 
Looking back at his career, in Norris' 17 seasons he has turned what was once a dormant Division I golf program into a legitimate Big 12 competitor and annual NCAA Regional contender. Before Norris, K-State hadn't finished in the top half of its conference since placing fourth in the former Big 8 Conference back in 1969. Thoughts of playing in postseason NCAA Competition were nearly impossible before he took the reins.
Today, Norris has accounted for six of K-State's seven NCAA regional appearances and, in 2003, competing at home on their new Colbert Hills Golf Course, K-State fell just one stroke short of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. 
Though the team didn't make it to the biggest stage that year, Norris looks back on that season with fondness. 
"There have been a lot of great memories involved with this golf course," he began. "We hosted a regional tournament here in 2003 and came within a stroke of making that National Championship - that was just great for our players to put together a really good performance, one shot too many, but still, that was great to show off our golf course. That was probably a highlight as well."
While this final season may not have gone as Norris had planned with unexpected injuries shadowing the season and his team placing ninth in the Big 12 Championship, there is no doubt he has made an impact on not only the K-State men's golf program but each and every player he has coached.
"This is no secret, but Coach Norris has done a phenomenal job in resurrecting this program. Before he came here, there wasn't a whole lot going on," said senior golfer Daniel Wood. "He's been here for close to 20 years and just done a phenomenal job of not just making this program a competitive one, but one that truly develops athletes into people who are ready to go out and be Wildcats for life. Coach Norris has been invaluable in my personal development and the development of my teammates."
As the page turns for Norris and his K-State career, he plans on staying in Manhattan, the town he has grown to call home, and work with K-State Athletics in the development of the new Vanier Football Complex and North End Zone Project at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 
While Norris said he is excited for this next chapter in his life, he is going to miss the K-State student-athletes he has worked with every single day. 
As Wood mentioned, the K-State golfers appreciate their coach; however, Norris has appreciated his golfers as well. 
"We've really been lucky over the years as far as the players who have come through here," began Norris. "There've been some high profile players, and then there's guys who call me up out of the blue and most of them go on and are pretty successful. 
"That's the best part about it, all the kids that have come through. They keep in touch with you, they come back to games and that's the fun part - and being here 17 years, I have quite a group of them."

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