Finishing in a tie for third at the Joburg Open on Monday earned SA’s Shaun Norris his second consecutive appearance at the Open Championship in 2018.
“For a South African golfer, it’s a dream to be playing in The Open Championship at Carnoustie next July,” said Norris, who earned his first million Rand payday of his career in the tri-sanctioned Joburg Open with his cheque of just over R1m.
“Last year I experienced The Open Championship with my family and I look forward to doing it again.”
For obvious reasons, golf broadcasts and stories tend to focus on the top echelon of the game. As a result the life of a pro golfer is often thought to be glamorous filled with six-figure pay cheques every week.
This is probably only true for the absolute best golfers on the planet in the men’s game at any given time, but outside the top 100 in the world it’s a vastly different life for the majority.
Norris, in particular, is not exactly a wide-eyed young professional coming up through the ranks in professional golf at 35-years-old.
By the time he tees it up in his second Open in July next year, he will be 36.
The journey for the Sunshine Tour veteran has indeed been long and difficult.
Since turning professional in 2002, he has won twice on the Sunshine Tour and also tasted victory twice on the Asian Tour.
In fact, his seventh place on the Japan Tour order of merit last season helped secure his debut appearance at golf’s oldest Major in 2017 at the Royal Birkdale golf course.
Admirably, he made the cut and went on to finish in a tie for 62nd.
“The Open Championship is steeped in history and tradition, you just have to look at the names on the Claret Jug to see what great golfers have won this championship.
“Carnoustie is a wonderful venue where Padraig Harrington won in 2008 and it will be a great test of golf come next July. I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said Norris.
In the 2017 season, Norris played eight events on the European Tour and made five cuts to finish 190th on the order of merit. In 2016, his results were similar with three cuts made in nine events.
His only full season on the European Tour was in 2011, where he teed it up in 19 events.
That season was particularly trying with four cuts made as he finished way down in 220th on the money-list.
After 10 years as a pro, Norris reached a career-high of 309th in the world rankings in 2012.
Two years later, however, he had dropped back to outside the top 1 000. It was only towards the end of 2015 that he returned to inside the top 400.
Recently though, Norris has maintained his strong performances and after the Joburg Open had improved his career-high ranking to 162nd.
Hopefully for Norris, the 2018 season will prove a stepping stone and his rise in the world rankings will continue.