NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Bryan Norton doesn’t view himself as an anomaly.
But as the only golfer eschewing a golf cart during the match-play portion of the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur at Big Canyon Country Club, he’s seen as that guy who is walking.
Carts are permitted in the USGA’s senior championships, but Norton, 55, of Mission Hills, Kan., has never felt comfortable using them in competition. He tried it for a few holes during this year’s Kansas State Amateur because the event features three consecutive 36-hole days, and he couldn’t hit a quality shot. On the fourth hole of his third-round match, he parked the cart in the rough and got a volunteer from the gallery to caddie. Norton wound up winning the title.
I don’t play the same when I ride. I just don’t, said Norton after his 2-and-1 quarterfinal victory Wednesday morning over Peter Wegmann, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I work out every day. I’ve always been thin, but I am in better golf shape. It doesn’t mean my legs won’t give out this afternoon [against 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Randal Lewis in the semis]. But I’m in as good a shape as I am going to be and I hope that is good enough.
Given the unseasonable high temperatures and humidity – the mercury has hit the mid-80s this week – and the hilly terrain of the golf course, Big Canyon head professional Robert Pang recommended to Norton that he take a cart, especially given the fact that competitors who advance must play double rounds Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday’s 18-hole championship match.
At the Sweet 16 Dinner on Wednesday night, a Senior Amateur Championship Committee member informed Norton that Kemp Richardson claimed his two titles in 2001 and 2003 by eschewing a cart.
That brought a smile to Norton’s face.
What would really make him happy is an individual USGA championship. In 2010 at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, Calif., Norton helped Kansas claim the USGA Men’s State Team Championship, and he was the low individual.
Eleven years ago, Norton was on the precipice of a title. He advanced to the 36-hole final of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club against Nathan Smith. On the ninth hole of the morning round, Norton’s ball found a tough lie above a bunker. The awkward lie caused him to fall backward as he struck his approach to the par-4 hole. When he landed, he heard a pop in his left calf. He had torn the muscle and after receiving medical attention for some 20 minutes, he was forced to concede the match on the ninth green.
Norton didn’t hit another golf shot for nearly three months.
Now he’s two victories away from wiping away that painful memory.
Tallent Putting On A Show
Four days ago, Patrick Tallent seemingly was headed back to Vienna, Va., after carding a 5-over 41 on Big Canyon’s outward nine in the first round of stroke-play qualifying. When he double-bogeyed the par-4 10th hole, the 2010 runner-up was in dire straits. But Tallent righted the ship on the last holes to salvage a 7-over 79. He followed it up with a 2-under 70 in Sunday’s final qualifying round to earn a spot in the 15-for-13 playoff for the last match-play spots.
From there, the 61-year-old Tallent has been on a major roll. He carded a first-nine 32 in eliminating 2013 Senior Amateur medalist and No. 5 seed Chip Lutz, 1 up, in Monday’s Round of 64, then won two matches on Tuesday before Wednesday’s impressive 6-and-5 quarterfinal victory over lefty Michael Turner, 57, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., the last remaining Californian in the field.
Today I shot 34 [on the first nine] and I got a bad break on the first [hole], he said. It was almost unplayable. I topped [it] and made a bogey. I birdied 2, 3 and 6 and parred all the rest.
The 2 on the scorecard for the 10th hole was the result of Turner hitting two tee shots out of bounds and conceding the hole that gave Tallent a comfortable 5-up lead.
Tallent had to pay a fee to rebook flights for himself and his wife, Cindy, and add another night’s stay at the Newport Beach Marriott.
We were supposed to have left [Tuesday], but we didn’t tell [the hotel] we were going and they didn’t kick us out, said Tallent. You’ve got to book the [airline] tickets [for a specific return] or you have to pay ridiculous prices for the refundable [fare]. I figured it was a $200 insurance policy in case I could [advance].
Lewis Rallies for 2-and-1 Victory
Jack Hall, of Savannah, Ga., took a 1-up lead over 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Randal Lewis, of Alma, Mich., with a birdie on the 12th hole. However, Lewis rallied to win three of the next five holes to take their quarterfinal match, 2 and 1.
It happens quickly, said Hall, 57, who qualified for the 2013 U.S. Senior Open and lost despite playing 2-under-par golf for 17 holes. I don’t know if it’s harder playing well and getting beat or if you don’t play well; at least then you can accept it earlier. You can only do what you can do.
Hall, the No. 23 seed, bogeyed holes 13 and 15, then watched Lewis make a 30-footer for birdie on the par-4 17th. He had a 10-foot putt to match Lewis and extend the match, but missed it.
It was tight the whole way, said Lewis, 57, the 34th seed in the championship who is seeking to become the first Mid-Amateur winner to add the Senior Amateur title. I don’t think I had a bogey today. To be honest, on 17 I was just trying to lag it up there and it went in. Lewis was 4 under for the 17 holes.
Cloninger Moves on With 3-and-2 Win
Rick Cloninger, of Fort Mill, S.C., took the lead for good over Frank Dial, of Auburn, Ala., when Dial found the water hazard on the par-4 ninth hole. Cloninger, the 32nd seed who defeated medalist Alan Fadel, 7 and 6, in the Round of 32, birdied the par-4 13th and 14th holes to assume a 3-up lead, then closed out Dial with pars on the next two holes.
Dial, 64, was competing in his first USGA championship, after having total knee-replacement surgery in October 2012.