When head coach Tim Norris arrived in Manhattan on Aug. 1, 1997, he inherited a program that hadn't finished in the top half of its conference since placing fourth in the former Big Eight Conference in 1969. Making the assignment even tougher was the fact that the Wildcats finished last in the Big Eight for 14 straight years from 1978-91. K-State was so far off that map that the thought of postseason NCAA play was nearly inconceivable. But that all changed once Norris took the helm.
Now in his 17th season at Kansas State, Norris, who is currently the longest tenured coach in the Big 12, has turned a once dormant Division I golf program into a legitimate Big 12 player and an annual NCAA Regional contender.
In 75 seasons of men's golf at K-State, the Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA regionals five times. Four of the five appearances have come in consecutive years, with Norris guiding the Wildcats to the NCAA Central Regionals from 2003-2006.
In 2003, the Wildcats came within one-stroke of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. In 2004, had regionals only been 36 holes, the Wildcats would have advanced, but a final round score of 318 dropped them to a 15th-place finish. In 2005, K-State shot a solid 881, but were unable to advance to the NCAA Championships, finishing six shots shy of qualifying. And in 2006, the Wildcats finished 18th, four spots better than their 22nd seed.
Even though the Wildcats have yet to advance a team past regionals, Norris has guided several individuals to the NCAA Championships. AJ Elgert tied for 12th at the 2003 Central Regional to extend his collegiate career to the national championship where he finished tied for 28th following a 72-hole score of 8-over 288.
In 2005, Robert Streb became the fourth Wildcat, but the first freshman ever, to advance to the NCAA Championship after tying for 12th at regionals.
Under the tutelage of Norris, K-State improved its placing in the Big 12 Championships in each of his first seven years at the helm, tying in fifth place this season, after entering the event as the ninth seed.
Norris' resurrection of the golf program at K-State all began when he inherited his first squad in 1997. During that season, K-State finished last in the Big 12. The steady rise through the Big 12 was topped off in 2004, when the Wildcats captured a fourth-place finish in the Big 12. It was the school's best conference finish since placing fourth in 1969.
More recently, K-State started off the 2012-13 season by finishing second in the 2012 Shocker Classic. Freshman Matt Green kicked off his Wildcat career by carding a 7-under 206 to place third in the event. Following a ninth-place finish in the St. Mary's Invitational, K-State returned home to Colbert Hills, where the Wildcats finished atop the leaderboard in the 2012 Jim Colbert Intercollegiate. Norris' squad closed out the fall portion of their season by winning the 2012 Pacific Invitational. In the most dramatic moment of the season, sophomore Kyle Weldon sunk a final-hole birdie putt to seal the win for the Wildcats. Despite personal and team struggles through the spring season, senior co-captain Curtis Yonke led the team over the final six events of the season, capping his K-State career by tying for 10th place in the 2013 Big 12 Championship. As a team, the Wildcats finished in fifth place in the conference final after entering the tournament as the ninth seed.
Despite losing Yonke and fellow senior co-captain Ben Juffer, the future of the program looks bright as the trio of Kyle Weldon, Matt Green and Daniel Wood will lead the Wildcats into the 2013-14 season. The trio combined to compete in 34 events, with eight total top-10 finishes.
The 2011-12 season was highlighted by a team win 2012 Wyoming Cowboy Classic over the last weekend of the regular season. Junior Ben Juffer fired a blistering 12-under 198 to take home the individual title, marking his third top-20 finish of the season. Fellow junior Curtis Yonke led the team in stroke average (73.44) and placed in the top-20 four times over the course of the year. The Wildcats also finished in the top-10 of 10 different events on the season.
The 2010-11 season proved to be one of the more challenging jobs for Norris in his tenure at K-State. In recent years, Norris was fortunate to have a talented core of players that included Robert Streb, Mitchell Gregson, and Joe Ida. In the first season without any of this trio on the squad, the young Wildcat team showed their youth as they fought through a tough schedule with sturdy competition. Included in this youth was Norris' son, Tyler, a two year letter winner out of Manhattan High School.
2009-10 saw the Norris-led Wildcats card seven top-5 team finishes, highlighted by a win in the 2009 Jim Colbert Intercollegiate. The trio of Mitch Gregson, Joe Ida and Joe Kinney recorded a combined 22 top-20 finishes, while leading K-State to fifth-place finish in the 2010 Big 12 Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Course in Trinity, Texas.
The 2008-09 season marked one of the most successful seasons in school history when the team placed in the top-five in all of the first six tournaments of the year. The Wildcats were able to win two tournaments that fall at the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate in Manhattan and the Pacific Invitational in Stockton, Calif. That marked the first time a Wildcat team won more than one tournament in a season since the 2001-02 season. In the spring of 2009, the Wildcats captured two more team titles at the Mizzou Tiger Intercollegiate in Columbia, Mo. and the Shocker Classic in Wichita, Kan.
The 2007-08 season was a further testament to the job Norris has done with the Kansas State golf team. Norris helped the Wildcats turn an 80-over, wind-crazed nightmare of a tournament at the Club Glove Intercollegiate into a prime learning experience and launch pad for success. After the Club Glove, K-State turned in its best two events of the fall and shot a school record 826 while leading the top-ranked team in the nation at the Pacific Invitational. During the spring season, Norris' Wildcats won their first tournament since the 2003-04 season when they brought home the first place trophy from the Ron Moore Invitational.
The 2006-07 season served as a rebuilding year for the K-State golf team. The Wildcats lost two seniors from the previous season, including the school's all-time leader in career stroke average Ben Kern and had a roster littered with freshmen. Two of those freshman, Mitchell Gregson and Joe Ida proved to be more ready than one might think and competed in all 13 events. Robert Streb and Kyle Yonke, a sophomore and junior respectively, stepped up in leadership of the young squad and tied for the team lead in stroke average at 75.24.
Due in a large part to Norris' recruiting and player development, K-State also had many individual accomplishments in 2005. Ben Kern became the first golfer since Matt Van Cleave in 2003 to win a tournament outright as Kern took medalist honors at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Kern finished the tournament with an amazing school- and tournament-record score of 69-65-65--199 (-14). For the year, Kern averaged 72.74 strokes-per-round, the second best annual stroke average in school history.
During the 2003-04 season the Wildcats won the Purina Classic in St. Charles, Mo. It was K-State's first tournament victory since winning the Wildcat Invitational on April 14, 2002. Even more impressive was the fact that it was K-State's first victory outside the state of Kansas since winning the Southwest Classic in Austin, Texas, on March 14, 1995. At the Purina Classic, Van Cleave became the first Wildcat to win a tournament since Aaron Watkins was victorious on Oct. 1, 2002 at the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate. En route to his victory, Van Cleave etched his name in the K-State record book with a 54-hole score of 70-67-65--202 (-11), only to be outdone by Kern the following season.
Norris' work might begin on the golf course, but it doesn't end there. Norris places a heavy emphasis on academics, which is why he produces true student-athletes. During the 2012-13 season, four Wildcat golfers earned Academic All-Big 12 honors. Kyle Weldon, Daniel Wood and Curtis Yonke were named first-team honorees, while Ben Juffer was named to the second team. This year's nod was the third consecutive year that Juffer and Yonke were honored by the Big 12 for their work in and out of the classroom. In the 2011-12 season, Yonke and Chase Chamberlain were named to the Academic All-Big 12 first and second teams, respectively.
The 2010-11 season Norris' squad placed four golfers to the Academic All-Big 12 list as Jason Schulte, Ross Guebelle, Yonke (first team) and Juffer (second team), were honored for their work in the classroom and on the greens. In 2009-10, Schulte was named to the Academic All-Big 12 first team, while Mitch Gregson, Joe Ida and Joe Kinney earned second-team honors.
In the 2007-2008 season, Ida, Gregson and Kyle Yonke earned Academic All-Big 12 honors. It marked the ninth-consecutive year that Norris has placed at least two of his golfers on the Academic All-Big 12 team. In 2006-07 season, Yonke was also the seventh Wildcat golfer to be named a Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar by the Golf Coaches Association of America. In 2006, Yonke and Jonathan James snagged first team Academic All-Big 12 honors. In 2005, Van Cleave earned first team honors, while Nick Shumacher picked up second-team honors. In 2004, three Wildcats were selected to the Academic All-Big 12 squad - Tim Moody (first team), Greg Douglas (second team), and Van Cleave (first team). Not only did Van Cleave win back-to-back first team Academic All-Big 12 accolades, but he was also honored by the GCAA as a Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar Recipient in 2004.
Through his 16 years at K-State, Norris has seen 48 academic distinctions given to his golfers.
Norris came to K-State from UTEP, where he led the Miners to six NCAA West Regional appearances (1990, `91, `93, `95, `96, `97), while coaching two-time All-American and 1995 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Ryan Hietala during his seven-year stint as head coach. His 1990, `91 and `95 squads appeared in the NCAA Championship and he had individuals take part at nationals in 1994 and 1997.
Prior to becoming the head golf coach at UTEP, Norris played on the PGA Tour, where he brought home four tournament titles in his nine-year career. Norris holds the distinction of going through qualifying school three times and qualifying each time. His first victory came at the 1980 California State Open.
Norris' second victory on the tour came at the 1982 Greater Hartford Open held at Wethersfield Country Club. Norris won the Greater Hartford Open in a convincing fashion, as he defeated Ray Floyd and Hubert Green by six strokes. Norris fired a tournament record 72-hole score of 63-64-66-66--259 (-25), a record which still stands. Norris' tournament record at the Greater Hartford Open is the fifth-longest standing tournament scoring record on the PGA Tour.
Norris' third tournament title came at the Spalding Invitational Pro-Am in Pebble Beach, Calif., in 1986. Norris carded an unthinkable second round score of 64 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, which is tied for the third lowest score in the course's storied history. The round of 64 at Pebble puts him in a group with only a few others that have accomplished the same feat. Other PGA Tour greats that have shot a 64 at Pebble include Paul Azinger, Ray Floyd, Jeff Sluman, Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods.
Norris' final victory came in 1992 at the Sun Country PGA Championship at Santa Teresa, N.M. Norris won the tournament while he was the head coach at UTEP.
Overall, Norris had a very successful professional career, recording nine other top 10 finishes during his nine years on the Tour. His professional career ended prematurely due to an injury to his right hand.
Collegiately, Norris starred at Fresno State, where he was a two-time All-American. Norris' 1980 stroke average of 71.89 stood atop the Bulldog's all-time single-season scoring charts for 20 years. The 1980 season was a very successful year for Norris as he garnered first team All-American honors. He went on to earn Fresno State Athlete of the Year accolades. During the 1978-79 season, Norris was tabbed a second team All-American after transferring to FSU from Fresno City College.
A native of Fresno, Calif., Norris and his wife, Shelley, reside in Manhattan. The couple have two children, Ashley and Tyler. Tyler is a senior on the K-State men's golf team.