When qualifying for the U.S. Open began in late April, Georgia Tech junior Noah Norton had a .9 percent chance to earn a spot in the field at famed Pebble Beach. On Monday at a sectional qualifier at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Norton overcame those odds, and a dream is coming true.
“There are no words to describe it,” Norton said in a news release from the school.
Even better for Norton, he won’t be too far from home. Norton hails from Chico, 180 miles by car northeast of Pebble Beach. He went to watch the 2010 U.S. Open played there and before coming to Tech, made playing in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach a goal.
“I put that date down and said that’s the one I want to play in,” he said. “So it happens that this is my first major. Pretty crazy.”
On Monday, Norton was 11 under par in the two-round event, tying for low honors with former Tech great Ollie Schniederjans and two shots ahead of another former Tech great, Roberto Castro. Current and former Jackets made up three of the four qualifiers out of Hawks Ridge out of the 67-player field. (The fourth was Duke junior Chandler Eaton, from Alpharetta. Former Georgia golfer Harris English qualified as an alternate while playing in Milton, Ontario.)
Hawks Ridge was one of 12 sectional qualifiers, which followed 110 local qualifiers. A total of 8,602 golfers entered, vying for 75 spots in the field for the national championship. Norton is one of 12 amateurs among the 75.
Norton’s back-to-back rounds of 67 and 66 were two of his best this season. Norton averaged 71.4 strokes per round this season for the Yellow Jackets and, out of 33 rounds played, had only one below 66. Norton earned All-ACC honors for the second year in a row, but he had a rough finish. He was 19 over in three rounds at the NCAA championship in late May, by far his poorest tournament of the season. As a team, Tech finished 18th.
“After the national championship, I looked at my game, and felt like I needed to work on my distance control on my irons, and worked a week straight on that,” Norton said. “I had so many good looks (Monday). It was an awesome day. I knew I was good enough to contest. I started out bogey-bogey, but I stuck to my plan and didn’t waver. At the end of the day, I was successful.”
Norton has some history at Pebble Beach. He played there last year in the U.S. Amateur, where he failed to make the 64-player cut after two rounds. This will be the fifth USGA national-championship event that he has played, after two U.S. Junior Amateurs and two U.S. Amateurs.
It’s the second year in a row that a current Jacket has made it into the U.S. Open field, following Tyler Strafaci in 2018.
Besides Norton, Schniederjans and Castro, two more former Tech players also will take part in the U.S. Open, beginning June 10 – Matt Kuchar and Chesson Hadley. Kuchar, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, is exempt into the field. Hadley, a PGA Tour member, qualified Monday in Columbus, Ohio.