Rainier Man Becomes Cornhole Pro, Wins World Championship

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Rainier resident Dean Norton not only became an American Cornhole League (ACL) pro this month, but he also won a division of the world championships.

Norton won the advanced blind draw division at the 2021 ACL World Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a competition where he had to blindly accept the rest of his team, drawn by chance. The competition spanned from Aug. 2 to 8.

“It kind of started as playing in the backyard at my parents’ house and I wasn’t very good,” Norton said of his start with the game during an interview with the Nisqually Valley News. “My competitive side kind of willed me toward buying my own set of boards and bags and I took a week (of) vacation from work. I played 12 hours a day, seven days that week that I was off. I got it down. I got pretty good. The more I played, the better I got.”

And all the practice paid off, because he won enough cornhole events during the 2020-21 season to earn a spot as an ACL pro for the 2021-22 season, which starts next month.

“I was fortunate enough to really put my mind to it, and I worked extremely hard to get as good as I am right now, and I was able to win some big tournaments,” Norton said.

A road operations crew chief with Thurston County Public Works, his time with the sport was originally recreational.

“It started out that I liked just having fun and hanging out, throwing bags,” he said. “It wasn’t something that I knew a lot about, but I knew it was a good time to get friends together and be competitive with each other.”

And that kind of competition is something he relishes.

“Just the competitive side of cornhole is amazing,” Norton said. “I grew up playing sports. Baseball was my life growing up, basically year-round. I like to compete. I like to be competitive. I like to be the best that I can be at anything that I do, especially when it comes to sports.”

Other athletes, he said, have also turned to cornhole to fill a competitive void.

“It’s just a way to get out there and compete and do something different,” Norton said. “I know a lot of softball players that don’t play softball anymore, but switched to cornhole because it was a way to keep that competitiveness in their life.”

It’s people like the former softball players he knows that really make the game for Norton, he said.

“The people in cornhole are absolutely amazing,” Norton said. “I have received so much support and love throughout this whole (last) season, especially the last six days that I found out that I will be a pro.”

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