Club pro enjoys a Kentucky homecoming
Thursday, August 7, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brian Norman’s visits back home to Henderson, Ky., normally are quiet, uneventful affairs. This one will be the exception to the rule.
Some of his friends and family already had planned to make the 125-mile drive and take in some golf as the 96th PGA Championship came to Valhalla Golf Club this week. But then the 32-year-old Norman went and made everyone rethink their plans. He got into the field.
At the 47th PGA Professional National Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in June, Norman, an assistant professional at The Lakes at Castle Hills in The Colony, Texas, needed a playoff but still managed to collar one of the spots in the PGA Championship awarded to the top 20. He played his last 12 holes in 4 over par, then advanced at the second hole of a 6-for-5 playoff.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Norman said. “Reliving the experience from the PNC was nice, getting a lot of compliments from the members and everyone at my club. But this is going to be a lot of fun; I’ve got my buddy on my bag . . . and we’re going to have a good time. We’re ready to rock and roll.”
To prepare for the PGA Championship, Norman, twice an All-Missouri Valley Conference selection at Southern Illinois, extended this week’s return to Kentucky. He arrived last Thursday, giving him a few extra days to see family and get in additional practice rounds. Though he had previously played at Valhalla, this was his first time to see the course since Jack Nicklaus made design changes in 2011 and ’12.
“I think I got a good feel for the golf course,” he said. “I went home for a couple of days, played a nice course in Newburgh, Ind., Victoria National, a great place to kind of tune up, and I’ve been back here for the last few days for a little more practice time.”
Each of the club professionals readily admits that the opportunity to play in a major championship is an incredibly rewarding experience, and Norman is no different.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Norman on Valhalla’s practice putting green as three of the world’s top 20 players practiced right behind him. “The driving range is pretty nice. Being around those guys and hitting balls next to them, it’s a dream come true. I’m handling the experience pretty well. I’ve played some good shots in my practice rounds; I’m ready to get started.”
Everywhere he’s gone this week at Valhalla, he’s heard shouts of encouragement from fellow Kentuckians, and he’s excited about the chance to share his PGA Championship experience with those that are close to him.
“To come home for a PGA Championship is an unbelievable experience,” he said. “Several (friends and family) were already coming, and then I qualified, which was pretty nice, so I’ve been seeing a lot of familiar faces all week. It’s been awesome to see everyone; I don’t get a chance to come home much, so this has been nice — really nice.”
Regardless of how he plays at Valhalla, Norman accomplished one thing the day he got into the field five weeks ago.
On future return visits to Henderson, he’ll have all those Valhalla memories to relive.