3rd August 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Tough but rewarding balancing act for Norris
“How can you compare anything to playing with Tiger, and to play with him at The Open, and to play with him when he plays himself into contention?” asked Shaun Norris from Royal Swazi Golf and Spa where he is making his first start on the Sunshine Tour this season.
He was recalling the final two rounds at Carnoustie Golf Links barely a month ago when he played alongside Tiger Woods. “There’s no better feeling than to play with him when he’s at the top of his game. I can’t trade that experience for anything,” he added.
He was making his second successive appearance at the event. He earned his first start via his exploits – which included a win and a series of good results – on the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO), while his second start was due to his third-place finish at Joburg Open. With all its thrills, experiences and marvels, The Open is now passed and it’s back to the regular schedule.
For Norris, regular means quite something else, though. He is doing duty on both the Sunshine Tour and the JGTO, while an exemption here and there and an occasional invite allows him to also play on the Asian Tour. He doesn’t mind the congested schedule, though, and seems to have worked out how to manage everything from playing to traveling to seeing family.
“It’s nice to be back,” is the first thing he says before the interview gets underway. “I’m back here for another three weeks or so. I will play Ebotse (Sun Carnival City Challenge) and Zebula (Vodacom Origins of Golf) before I head out to the East again.”
Norris has had considerable success in the East and has not gone one season without a win in Asia since 2015. This season, however, he is yet to win something and, boy, has he been close. He was runner-up at the SMBC Singapore Open early in the year. Came fourth at Kansai Open Golf Championship and third at Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup.
“I think the game is getting a little closer to pull out another win again before the end of the year,” he says of where he thinks his game is at. And trying to understand why he has enjoyed so much success in Japan, Norris narrows it down to a few things.
“The courses are in super condition,” he says, “I mean there isn’t a single blade of grass in a wrong place. They suit my game a lot, most are ball strikers’ courses and I really enjoy those. The people are friendly and I feel very accommodated like they’ve taken me in.”
The type of success he has had in Japan, naturally, opens up more doors for the 36-year old, and while playing with Woods, and playing with him at the open, and playing with him when he gets himself into contention, is one of those opportunities with which his success has come, a lot more lies ahead for Norris.
“After last year’s win they gave me another five years exemption,” he reveals, “so I will be out there for a while longer. I need to sharpen up on my Japanese.”
There’s no doubt that Norris is on a good roll in Japan – and back home where he is in with a real chance of winning a third Sunshine Tour title if he reaches peak form. But first, he must produce the magic in eSwatini, and if things don’t happen, there’s still Ebotse and Zebula to look forward to. Whatever happens though, Norris is determined to add another title to his cabinet sooner rather than later.