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Kansas Golf Associaition

What A Year It Was!

The KGA awards its Players-of-the-Year for 2014.

In the words of Bryan Norton, “it was a magical year”!

The 55 year-old may think so, but by any objective measure Bryan Norton was clearly the best amateur golfer in Kansas in 2014.  He is joined on the end-of-season stage by two other Kansas golfers who also had outstanding performances this year.

The Kansas Golf Association is pleased to announce its 2014 Players-of-the-Year.   Bryan Norton is both the Player-of-the-Year and the Senior Player-of-the-Year.  Zac Burton is the Mid-Amateur Player-of-the-Year, his first such award, and Sam Stevens three-peats as the Junior Player-of-the-Year.

At the age of 55, Bryan Norton becomes the third Kansas senior golfer to earn both the Bryan Norton regular POY and the Senior POY in the same season.  Ron Brewer and Don Cox accomplished the dual feat in 1997 and 2000, respectively.   Norton was the run-away winner of both awards for his 2014 season accomplishments.   The points that were awarded in both categories basically came from three events.  First, it was the Kansas Amateur.  Norton played very well in the stroke play qualifying and earned the #4 seed.  He continued through the match play bracket like a man possessed of some “magic”.  Playing his home golf course and using three different caddies (including his son, Johnnie), Norton dispatched the defending champion Chase Hanna in the semifinals and then denied Sam Stevens the crown in his second consecutive trip to the Kansas Amateur finals.   Norton’s win witnessed by over 100 fellow Mission Hills CC members, was record-breaking.  By winning the Kansas Amateur at the age of 55, Norton beat the record of “oldest champion” by 10 years.  Jack Robertson won the title at the age of 45 in 1934, 80 years ago.

Just two weeks later, Bryan and Johnnie Norton arrived at Tallgrass Country Club in Wichita to defend their KGA Father-Son title.  While BryanBryan Norton with caddie Peter Shriver did contribute some, he rode son Johnnie’s birdie barrage over two rounds and the Norton’s posted a successful defense of the title.    It was the first time in the 16-year history of the event that a team managed to win in consecutive years.  Interestingly enough, they posted the same winning score each year – 129.

Bryan next took on a national field of elite senior golfers at the U.S. Senior Amateur played at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, California.  Since he plays a schedule of national amateur events, Norton is very familiar with many of the players vying for this prestigious title and it was no surprise to see him earn a very good seed in the match play bracket.   Bryan was the only player in the 64-player match play bracket that opted not to use a golf cart on the hilly course.  He literally walked his way into the final match of 18 holes.  His opponent and eventual winner got off to a fast start from which Bryan could not recover, despite a valiant effort.  A runner-up finish in the US Senior Amateur is worth a bunch of POY points, and several exemptions into USGA championships in 2015!

Bryan Norton may call it “magic” out of humility.  But his friends and fellow competitors know Zac Burtonhow he won two KGA Player-of-the-Year honors in 2014 – it’s called TALENT!

Zac Burton had a 2014 golf season that would normally win an overall POY award.  He did finish second in points to Norton, but he was at the top of the class amongst mid-amateur golfers in Kansas.  His performance easily earned him the KGA’s Mid-Amateur POY award.

Zac brings more passion and athleticism than most to the amateur game.  His competitive drive and athletic skills make him one of the top active competitive golfers in Kansas.  The former K-State quarterback and successful Manhattan, Kansas building contractor had a goal in 2014 to earn a spot on the Kansas team for the USGA State Team Championship to be played in September.

Burton made a big step toward that goal in early May by tying Jon Troutman for the lead of the KGA Mid-Amateur after two rounds.  The championship had to be decided in a play-off that Troutman won on the third extra hole.   Four weeks later, Zac avoided another play-off and claimed the KGA Public Links Championship outright at Colbert Hills, a golf course he has played dozens of Zac Burtontimes.   Then three weeks after that, Zac found himself in another sudden-death play-off at The Railer played at Sand Creek Station GC in Newton.   He had to settle for another runner-up trophy.  But his POY points were mounting up with several events still on the calendar.

The Kansas Amateur at Mission Hills CC was probably Burton’s best performance of the season.  Paired the first two days with Bryan Norton for the stroke play rounds, Zac shot a 1-under par 139.  The same score as Norton.  They tied for third in stroke play and Burton was given the #3 seed and won two matches before losing in the round of 16.

Burton had reached his goal.  With one championship, two runner-up finishes and a very solid performance in the Kansas Amateur, Zac was an obvious choice for Team Kansas and the USGA State Team Championship.  The Mid-Amateur Player-of-the-Year award is just “icing on the cake”.

Charlie Stevens won the inaugural KGA Junior Player-of-the-Year award in 1987.  Twenty five years later, his son Sam won his first KGA Junior Player-of-the-Year award.  He repeated the feat in 2013 having won the National Big I Championship and finishing runner-up in the Kansas Amateur.  2014 was Sam Stevens’ final Sam Stevensyear on the “junior golf circuit”.  With a golf scholarship safely inked with the powerhouse program at Oklahoma State, Sam just needed to spend the summer playing as much golf as possible and getting better.

Stevens came to Eagle Bend in Lawrence on a mission to win his first Kansas Junior Amateur.  The usual 54-hole competition was reduced to just two rounds due to rainy conditions.   Stevens left no doubt of his intentions to win the trophy – he shot a record-setting low first round with a blistering 8-under par 64.   A second round 3-under par 69 gave him a five stroke margin of victory.   Sam is now the third generation Stevens to win a Kansas Junior Amateur title.  Grandfather Johnny Stevens won in 1960 (the same year he won the first of his two Kansas Amateur titles) and father Charlie Stevens won in 1986.

After a great run at the Kansas Amateur title in 2013, Sam Stevens came to Mission Hills CC for this year’s Kansas Amateur one year older and with an improved game.   After cruising through the stroke play rounds and earning the #7 seed, Sam proceeded to march through Sam Stevens with caddie Alex Springerfive matches to find himself right back in the final match.  He would face veteran senior golfer Bryan Norton in the 36-hole final at Norton’s home golf course.  In one of the most competitive and exciting Kansas Amateur final matches in the last 20 years, Sam had earned his second consecutive Kansas Amateur runner-up trophy, a first in the 106-year history of the event.   No doubt after a year of college experience, Sam will find a way back to the finals of in the Kansas Amateur in 2015 – to be played at Wichita Country Club, his home course.

So, with a Kansas Junior Amateur title setting a record in the process and a Kansas Amateur that was so close to another championship, Sam Stevens sets another record – winning his third consecutive KGA Junior Player-of-the-Year award becoming the first Kansas golfer to win three Junior POY awards.

Congratulations to our three top performers in 2014.  It was “a magical year”!