With a passion for golf from a young age, Hays High’s Josh Norris has always had the desire and dedication to make it to the next level.
And over the last couple of seasons, Norris has found the results to make it happen.
The HHS senior finalized his college plans on Thursday, signing with Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb.
“It feels great knowing I have the ability to go play at the next level,” Norris said.
Norris is looking to put the final touches on a strong senior season that has been highlighted by a tournament championship in the McPherson Invitational and a runner-up showing in the Bob Blazer Hays High Invitational.
Hays High coach Mark Watts said it's been rewarding to watch Norris’ progression throughout his career.
“His freshman year, he wasn’t one of our better players, but the improvement he had over the years, I knew he had the drive and the ability to go on and play (in college),” Watts said. “It’s always nice to have kids that go on and further their education, plus also play the sport that they love.”
Norris’ 18-hole tournament average is down to 77.7 for his senior year, about 10 strokes lower than his average total as a freshman.
“The big (improvement) was the mental game, not getting frustrated if I had a bad shot,” Norris said. “I just focused on the next one. Also, kind of slowing my swing down and making my swing shooter, so there’s not as many things to go wrong.”
Watts agreed that mental focus has been a key area of improvement for Norris.
“At first, he had a little trouble finishing tournaments,” Watts said. “This year, he’s been able to finish more tournaments. He still had a couple of tournaments where he didn’t play real great at the end ... but he’s been able to learn how to finish tournaments, and that’s all mental.”
Norris was a member of Hays High’s Class 4A state championship team as a freshman and helped the Indians earn 4A runner-up honors last year. He was a first-team All-WAC selection as a junior and an honorable mention all-conference pick as a sophomore.
He has medaled in 18 out of 37 tournament in his career and five of seven tournaments this year.
“I am happy with where my game is,” Norris said. “I’ve had a few holes that kind of hurt my average. But I feel like I can finish these last three tournaments really well in the lows 70s.”
Norris said campus facilities and Southeast’s home course were big factors in his decision.
“When I went to visit there, I really liked the practice facilities and the schedule and everything,” Norris said. “There’s two golf holes on the campus that you can play between classes. The course is real nice out there.”
Watts said Norris’ experience has been vital for the Indians this season.
“I would always watch those guys play — Josh and Tradgon (McCrae) and the (older) guys — but this year I’ve been kind of just letting them go," Watts said. "I haven’t watched much of their golf and coached them, just because I’ve got three younger players that I have to.
“And Josh was one of those younger players when he was a freshman, so it kind of came full circle. He was one of the ones that I was really working with and trying to get through when he was a freshman, but now I basically trust (the seniors) and let them go on and do their own thing.”
Norris is the second golfer off this year’s Indian golf team to sign to play in college, with McCrae heading to Hutchinson Community College.
Norris is hoping to use his time at Southeast as a stepping stone to a four-year college.
“That’s the big goal, but I’ll just see what door opens up,” he said.
He said it’s a relief to have his plans squared away.
“I have everything finalized so I can just focus on golf,” Norris said. “School’s done now, so I can just focus on golf throughout the summer.”