Cory Norton, West High School’s exceptional golf coach

Story and photos by HUNTER THORNBURG

Coaches make up a significant part of an athlete’s day, their academic career, and perhaps even their professional endeavors. It is vital that athletic organizations hire individuals who value development, and understand the importance of building the relationships that matter. Student-athletes are likely to put more effort into their aspirations if they know their coaches trust and believe in them. 

Head golf coach Cory Norton in his office.

One of the coaches who matches that description is West High School’s varsity golf coach, Cory Norton.

Norton has worked for the Salt Lake City School District for 29 years — 19 years as a behavioral specialist, and 10 years as special education teacher for West High. He is heading into his fourth year of golf coaching in Fall 2020. However, when Norton began his career at West, he wasn’t coaching golf. 

He started out as the varsity offensive coordinator with the football team at the school, located at 241 N. 300 West, and held that position for five years. During the same time, Norton was also an assistant coach for West’s varsity basketball team. He stayed with that program for seven years. Norton then took over as the head baseball coach, guiding that team for three years before becoming the head boy’s golf coach.

His extensive résumé has mostly revolved around his style and goals as a leader.

“Whether they’re competitive or whether they’re kind of an average player, that doesn’t matter. The main thing is that I want them to work hard, progress, get better, and the No. 1 thing is just to have a fun time,” he said.

Norton said golf is a sport that one can play for the rest of their life. Many of his golfers enjoy the game, and just want to learn how to play the sport in order to develop those skills and have an enjoyable experience to carry into their adult life. However, he said that teaching the student-athletes these skills is only half the job. He added that he also tries to instill positive morals and build character. 

“We’re trying to teach good values. Be kind to people, be a good citizen, stand up for what you believe in, and be a leader basically,” Norton said. He hopes to guide his student-athletes to be good advocates for their families and the school.

Student-athletes say he has significantly impacted them on and off the green. 

Tyler Skeen, a sophomore golfer at West High.

Tyler Skeen, a sophomore at West High School, said he connects with coaches best when they are flexible and kind. He said he is most efficient and successful with his training when the coaches provide consistent practices. In his opinion, Norton fits the bill.

“Five practices a week, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Every day we kind of do similar things. Fundamentals is what we work mostly on, and then once or twice a week we’ll go out and just practice,” Skeen said. Alongside consistency and flexibility, he said Norton tends to be very upbeat, and he strives to help athletes with their individual game.

Skeen’s older brother, Trevor, a junior at West High, is also on the team. Trevor said he strives to build a good relationship with his coaches. He said he connects with coaches best and has a good experience if the coaches are fun, friendly and involved.

Trevor Skeen, a junior golfer at West High.

“He’s (Norton) actually just a really fun guy. He makes jokes. He always has a plan for practice. Most of the time, it’s pretty much the same things, but it’s always helpful. He’ll give advice, and sometimes he’ll bring other people in. I like Coach, and I like the way he runs practice,” Skeen said.

Another junior on the West High golf team is Anthony Smith. He said Norton often works with the athletes individually, giving them tips and being supportive. He added that Norton also makes efforts to connect with the players by interacting with them through friendly competition. “We practice every day, and he’s always there. He sometimes even plays with us by organizing some competitions while we’re practicing, and that’s pretty fun,” Smith said.

Anthony Smith

Junior Anthony Smith is also on the West High School golf team.

All of the student-athletes said Norton is good about holding them accountable for their academics. He often conducts grade checks to make sure they’re on track, though the athletes say they don’t worry much about that as they are all responsible students. Norton said, “For me, the main thing is that I want them to do well with their academics. The first value I’m teaching is that even though they are playing a sport, school should still be one of their top priorities.”

The student-athletes are not the only ones observing Norton’s approach as the golf coach. Rachel Townsend, West High’s athletic director, has also taken notice. 

She said Norton is a coach who magnetizes his players by taking ownership of the program, which causes the players to also take ownership. “Coach Norton identifies strengths within his athletes, allowing him to help them focus on what they’re doing right. He’s very positive with his athletes,” she said. “He expects them to put in the extra time to do well on the green, and encourages them to do so.”

Norton said he is looking forward to coaching his seniors who have been with him since he became the golf coach three years ago. He said he is also excited to see the talent of his athletes on display, and hopes they will get some college scholarships out of the Fall 2020 season.