Senior golfer Tanner Norton will always remember the relationships he’s made as a student-athlete at Elon University, both on and off the golf course.
“It was definitely a real good time,” Norton said. “(I) had a lot of fun, met a lot of people and made a lot of relationships with people I’ll never forget.”
One of those relationships, with fellow golfer and sophomore John Somers, had begun even before the two were teammates at Elon.
“I’ve known him even since before Elon,” Somers said. “I’ve know his dad for a while, so I’ve probably known Tanner four years, four or five years.”
Norton, from nearby Graham, N.C., experimented with another sport before focusing on golf.
“I played soccer in high school for two years, and then I pretty much concentrated on golf,” Norton said. “I wanted to play baseball, but the way the seasons were, I could only play golf.”
Norton chose to play collegiately at Elon because of its proximity to his home.
“I wanted to come here because it was close to home and I was familiar with the area, so I was pretty much in my comfort zone,” Norton said.
When he is asked what his fondest memory is as a member of the Elon golf team, Norton wastes no time in responding, “Probably that last hole at the (Southern) conference tournament (this year).”
At the SoCon Tournament this season, Norton tied for fourth for his best collegiate finish in his final tournament.
Once Norton graduates, he admitted he’ll miss almost everything about Elon, but is happy about concluding one aspect of college.
“Definitely the schoolwork,” he joked. “(I’ll) probably miss my friends and the golf team. I’ll miss playing a few of the courses we played, because they were pretty nice and I’ll definitely miss most of the guys.”
Somers knows how much Norton meant to the team, and appreciates the relationship they shared as teammates and friends.
“He’s (brought) a lot of leadership,” Somers said. “He’s one of my good friends and I know he’s one of the (people) I can go to. He’s always willing to play a round (of golf) with anybody. We’re really, really good friends.”
He cares more about what everyone else is doing than himself. If I go out and play bad he’s going to care more about that than if he played bad because he wants his friends to play well and he wants his friends to enjoy their time.
– Stuart Kaufman, Elon sophomore golfer on Tanner Norton
Sophomore Stuart Kaufman, one of Norton’s three roommates this year, reiterated how important Norton was to his teammates.
“He just meant the world to our team,” Kaufman said. “He was pretty much the captain — we don’t name captains — but he’s been in the leadership role all year.”
Norton knows how hard it’ll be to leave his teammates behind, which makes graduating that much more difficult to comprehend.
“(I’ll miss the team) quite a lot,” Norton said. “I really felt like everybody loved me and appreciated me on the team so I’ll probably miss the fact that I won’t be here to be that person anymore.”
Somers had a similar view of what Norton might wish he could keep.
“He’ll miss going to the tournaments, and probably getting a lot of the free food,” Somers teased. “The van rides (to the tournaments) and playing some of the courses. The courses we play at are really nice, and I know he’ll miss that.”
But Kaufman believes it will be the relationships Norton has made with his teammates that he’ll miss the most. Relationships are a common facet of college that athletes miss, but for these three, it is a little bit different. They all live together.
“Tanner’s going to miss living with the three of us the most, no question,” Kaufman said with a smile. “There are four of us that live together and we’ve gotten along really well and we’re all going to miss each other.”
Norton, Somers and Kaufman have the kind of friendship most athletes can only dream of having with their teammates. They’re loose and comfortable around one another, cracking jokes and grinning when talking about the impact Norton has had on their team.
When trying to name Norton’s most favorable quality, Somers paused for a moment and picked his friend’s “confidence in himself.”
“He’s always willing to hit the shot, and he knows he can, so it’s one of his good traits,” Somers said.
Kaufman picked his friend’s unselfishness and described how Norton would always put his teammates before himself.
“He cares more about what everyone else is doing than himself,” Kaufmann said. “If I go out and play bad he’s going to care more about that than if he played bad because he wants his friends to play well and he wants his friends to enjoy their time.”
Norton hopes to give professional golf a try after graduation.
“I’m going to try to play on some mini-tours and see what I’ve got while working,” he said.
It might be a tough road ahead, but Norton is taking it one step at a time. He’ll do everything he can to continue to play the game he loves.