Rainier cornhole player turns pro and wins world championship the same weekend

Dean Norton attributes his success to hours of practice and family support. #k5evening

YELM, Wash. – At a charity cornhole tournament outside Mr. Doug’s restaurant in Yelm, sacks fly and word spread that among the contestants is a true pro: Dean Norton.

“This game is 90% mental,” says Norton. “You have to be mentally strong
to stay focused.”

Two and a half years ago, Norton says he had never heard of cornhole when he first played the game in his parents’ backyard in Rainier.

“I wasn’t very good at it and my competitive side took over,” says Norton. “I took a week off work and played 12 hours a day, seven days a week. And now the more I play, the better I get.”

His fanbase consists mostly of friends and family.

“My wife has been my biggest support throughout this whole thing,” he says. “Without them I would definitely not be where I am today.”

He has found more family support in spirit. On his practice boards is a picture of his brother. Sergeant Justin D. Norton was killed in Iraq in 2006.

“We had a lot of very, very good times together growing up,” says Norton. “Times I’ll never forget and I know he’s with me all the time, wherever I am. He’s there.”

At the American Cornhole League World Championship in August, the same week he qualified to play pro, Norton and Jamie Sanchez won the Advanced Blind Draw Championship. Norton took home $750.

In Yelm, amateurs can’t wait to take on the champion.

“He has a really good strategy,” says Chuck Eaton. “He blocks, shoves, blocks, shoves, lots of nice airmail.”

“He practices a lot more than anyone I know,” says Norton’s aunt, Donna May. “There’s so much strategy in this game that a lot of people don’t even realize it.”

“Consistency is the most important part of this game,” Norton says, “and being consistent on every shot is one of the hardest things.”

To be consistent, Norton keeps his throwing motions to a minimum. He does not take a step or move any part of his body that is not involved in throwing the bag. His bags arrive flat, often with a little twist, and usually right on target.

“It’s not a sport that a lot of people can just jump into and be phenomenal right away,” he says.

And “Evening” host Saint Bryan is a good example. He came close a few times, but he never airmailed a bag like Norton did. It’s a bit like shooting a basketball from the half court and scoring a goal without hitting the net.

“Did that just go in?” asks Bryan.

Norton has no expectation of making a living as a professional cornhole. He keeps his day job as a road crew leader in Thurston County. But after work you can always find him practicing with his brother in the backyard.

“I had some pretty big shots that not a lot of people are going to believe,” says Norton, “but he was there to see it.”

The evening of KING 5 celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, TwitterInstagram, email.

https://www.king5.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/evening/rainier-cornhole-player-turns-pro-and-wins-world-championship-the-same-weekend/281-84298a2f-9dd3-47c9-b754-6cfd35704011 Rainier cornhole player turns pro and wins world championship the same weekend

Emma Bowman

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