Making my first trip to Tipton (well, to cover the Eastern Iowa men’s golf tournament anyway) Sunday, Aug. 9, my thoughts immediately flashed back to 2013 when the Wapsi Country Club turned in an emotional performance and claimed the championship in what proved to be the final appearance of longtime club icon Al Norton, who passed away a few months later.
Everyone knew Norton’s health was failing, and the team sorely wanted to make a statement and win the championship for their longtime teammate who had played major roles on countless Wapsi teams over the last half century (Norton was not competing at the event in 2013, but was there to cheer his WCC teammates on).
The post-tournament awards ceremony that night turned into an Al Norton tribute.
Wapsi could not have scripted things any better if they had tried.
Since that 2013 Wapsi triumph, the Men’s Eastern Iowa Golf Association eventually named the tournament’s traveling trophy in Norton’s honor. The Al Norton Cup, which the WCC won in 2018. I know Wapsi certainly wanted to win the Cup back making their first trip to Tipton for an Eastern Iowa tournament since 2013, but in the end, Solon defended their 2019 championship and claimed the title.
Watching all of the Eastern Iowa teams compete Sunday once again gave me an appreciation for how incredibly talented these guys are, and how ridiculously easy they can make the game look.
Norton was like that too. I always marveled at his ability to control the golf ball while keeping what seemed to be a loose and fun attitude out on the courses (I guess it helps when you’re always shooting near par or under par scores like Norton did for pretty much his entire golf career).
I golfed for the first time in two years a couple of weeks ago, and my struggles in pretty much every facet of the game gave me an even greater appreciation for what these guys can do.
I golfed with my son Kevin, a talented golfer in his own right who shot near par scores out at Fawn Creek and Wapsi when he was a member of the Anamosa High School golf team, (and now shoots par and under-par scores) and is an even better golfer now having golfed much more than he did back in high school and taken on PGA TOUR courses in and around Raleigh, North Carolina area where he lives now.
Norton also played a major role in the development of my son as a golfer (as he did for many area youth), always encouraging them when he and his friends would come out to Wapsi and get a round (or three) in.
Kevin was able to maintain his normal success that afternoon, even golfing (and waiting) with me while I was struggling mightily hacking my way down pretty much every fairway.
For me, it was an extremely frustrating day, so when I was in Tipton watching the Wapsi men post some pretty impressive scores, for me it became another ‘I’m not worthy’ moment. At one point, Wapsi’s Sean Smith was sitting with a two-day total of 9-under par early in his round on Sunday. Simply amazing stuff.
I wish I could do what Kevin and the Eastern Iowa men make look so easy, but I guess I’m meant to take photos of greatness, having not been blessed with it.