Santa Rosa, Calif. (Sept 16, 2010) – The gigantic smile on Bryan Norton’s face said it all.
Twice a USGA runner-up – once as an individual at the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur and again last September at the Men’s State Team Championship – the 51-year-old from Mission Hills, Kan., was aching to take home a national title.
“And I was second-low am at the [U.S.] Senior Open last year, too,” said an elated Norton, whose Kansas squad soared to the top in 2010 at the Men's State Team Championship at Mayacama Golf Club.
Carding a 3-under-par 68 in Thursday’s final round, Norton guided Kansas to a four-stroke victory over Rhode Island, Florida and North Carolina.
Kansas, which started the day tied with Georgia for the 36-hole lead, posted a final-round 142 (even par) on the 6,726-yard Jack Nicklaus design to finish the 54-hole competition at 3-under 423. Charlie Stevens of Wichita and Tyler Shelton of Fairway each posted 74s, with one being discarded in the three-count-two format.
“This means a lot,” said the 41-year-old Stevens. “I’m excited for Bryan. He’s done a lot for Kansas golf.
“I don’t know if it’s vindication or justification, but we showed we can play. It’s a neat deal. It’s going to be really neat for the Kansas Golf Association. [Executive Director] Kim Richey did not make it [to Mayacama]. He’s going to be pretty excited.”
Georgia, meanwhile, struggled in the final round, posting a 10-over 152 to share ninth position. The disappointment was on the faces of all three players entering the scoring area adjacent to the 18th green. David Noll Jr. of Dothan, who had a course-record 65 on Wednesday, carded a 77 and Adam Cooper added a 75. Doug Hanzel’s 79 was tossed out.
Florida, which started the day five strokes back, made an early run at Kansas on the first nine, shooting four under par. But only Don Bell managed to finish with a sub-par score, carding an impressive 67. Jon Veneziano added a 74. It was Florida’s best finish since the inaugural event in 1995 at Lake Nona, where they were solo second to champion Virginia.
“We’re excited about that for sure,” said Bell, coming off a second-round 80. “Of course it’s disappointing not to win. Congratulations to the winners, they played great. I think for our association, we are very pleased to finish second.”
North Carolina, which also tied for second in 2003, posted a 1-under 141 behind a 70 by Scott Harvey and Uly Grisette’s 71.
Rhode Island produced its best finish ever in the State Team after sharing fourth last year with South Carolina. Left-hander Charlie Blanchard rallied for a second-nine 33 for a 71 and Bobby Leopold posted a 70.
Illinois and Alabama shared fifth at 2-over 428, one stroke ahead of Virginia, which was six under for nine holes before falling back to shoot 2-under 140, thanks to a 67 from Scott Shingler.
Shingler finished one stroke behind Norton for individual medalist honors. With his 68, Norton posted a 5-under 138.
Defending champion Pennsylvania, which got a 72 from two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith, finished tied for ninth at 433, while host California, behind an even-par 71 from Harry Rudolph III, garnered solo eighth.
With the course baked in sunshine all day and just a gentle breeze, conditions were ideal for scoring. Eight teams managed under-par totals, doubling the totals (four) from the first two rounds. Eighteen individuals broke par, equaling the number of sub-par rounds over the first 36 holes.
Kansas appeared as though it was going to run away from the field early on the second nine, with Shelton and Norton under par. But things can change rapidly in a team event, and when Shelton double-bogeyed No. 17 and knocked two in the water on 18 for a triple-bogey 8, things became a little precarious.
Norton, playing in the final group, only saw on a scoreboard that his team was six under and never heard about Shelton’s travails on the last two holes. He managed to birdie both par-5s coming in, reaching the 18th in two and two-putting for a closing birdie to offset a bogey at the par-3 17th.
The victory was especially sweet for Norton. At the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur, he pulled a calf muscle 8½ holes into the championship match and had to concede to Nathan Smith. A year ago at The Country Club of St. Albans in suburban St. Louis, Norton, competing with two different Kansas players (Jon Troutman and Dodge Kemmer), watched his team open with a 9-under 133, matching the championship 18-hole scoring mark. Caught in a heavy downpour in round two, the team struggled to a 152 and couldn’t recover enough in the final round, placing three strokes behind champion Pennsylvania, including Smith.
Norton vowed that 2010 would provide a different outcome, urging the Kansas Golf Association to change its selection criteria to focus on hot players, not points. The process seemed to work.
“As soon as they selected the team, I sent an e-mail to these two guys that we’re going to win,” said Norton, a veteran of two previous State Team Championships. “We’re not going there to play well. We had a good team for this course. We had guys who could keep it in play and good decision-makers.”
Even garnering medalist honors was secondary for the team-oriented Norton.
“Quite honestly, that’s nice,” said Norton. “But all I cared about was the team. Then you can share it with everybody.”
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with question or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org