Senior Tanner Norton can’t reminisce about the moment without showing emotion.
He vividly remembers his journey up to the 18th green, his last green, in the final round of the Southern Conference Tournament. As he thinks about it, a tear comes to his eye.
“It was really tough,” the fifth-year senior said. “On the last hole, I started crying. Everybody was there for me. It’s over. It’s sad, but now I guess the real world begins.”
It was the end of a dream tournament for Norton. He shot a 3-over-par 219 for the three rounds. He finished tied for fourth, his best finish of the year.
Now Norton’s team must adjust to life without a student-athlete who has been present the last five years. But the return of another mainstay may ease the transition.
Head coach Bill Morningstar said he’ll return for his 41st season next year, trying to correct the ills of a team that finished near the bottom of almost every tournament in 2011-2012.
“It was a down year,” Morningstar said. “My expression is that we played like yo-yos. One kid’s up and one kid’s down, then the other one would get a good score in, the other one would go up. It seemed like that was the trend the whole year.”
It should come as no surprise that a man who has made a career of one-year contracts isn’t thinking long-term.
“Right now, we always talk about one year at a time,” Morningstar said. “I’m thinking I’ll probably go one more year.”
The SoCon Tournament represented a glimmer of hope for a team that lacked much throughout the season. The Phoenix shot a 297 in the first round. This positioned Elon in the middle of the pack but within a mere seven shots of the lead. But a second round 309 eliminated any hopes the team had of winning a conference tournament.
By the time things were over, Elon finished in eighth place in the 11-team field.
“I thought we could have played better in the conference,” said sophomore Jack Adkins. “I think we had a good enough team to make a good run at it.”
Norton is the only Phoenix that won’t return for the 2012-2013 season. The team will have no seniors on next year’s team, meaning that while it’s possible nobody leaves after next season, there is certainly work to be done over the summer.
The disappointment left by a bad finish in Charleston, S.C., is fresh, but Adkins said his expectations are not affected by it.
“Hopefully, we can all get a little bit better and put some numbers together and really make a run at winning the Southern Conference and being a good team,” Adkins said.
If they can do that, emotions will be present for a different reason next year.