When he was at the National Club Professional Championship in California, it was a learning experience that he hopes will make for a better finish starting Sunday at the Tom Fazio-designed Belfair Golf Club at Hilton Head, S.C.
The 2019 PGA Professional Championship — the world's largest all-professional event, is scheduled to be played Sunday through Wednesday.
Morgan, a golf professional since 2005, got off to a great start at last year’s tournament at Bayonet Black Horse outside of Monterey, Calif. when he birdied the first hole.
“Had the tournament ended at that point, I would have been tied for second,” Morgan joked. “Unfortunately, it was downhill after that first putt.”
What Morgan needed more than anything was course time. As of April 4, he had played just 21 holes.
“I played as many holes as I could at Eagle Creek,” he said. “But, I have had the good fortune of being able to play down here at a course where Betty McCarty’s son, Mike, is a member. He lives in nearby Bluffton and is a member at Berkeley-Hall Golf Club. He has me approved for near course-member status at his club, which means I will get in as many as four rounds on that venue.”
Practice at a private facility that is close to the course conditions of the tournament course is critical because Belfair has been closed for tournament prepping.
“I had tee times on the tournament courses four days,” Morgan said. “The tournament will be played on Belfair’s West (Par 71, 6,900 yards) and East (par 72, 7,111 yards) courses. We will not get our tee times for the tournament until five or six days prior to the first round on April 28.”
The tournament has a cut after the second day. The low 80 players and ties play the final two days. The low 20 players at tournaments end will qualify for the 2019 National PGA event which will be played this summer at the famed Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
The 52nd playing of this weekend’s event will be played for the 10th time in the Palmetto State. It was played at Myrtle Beach in 2014.
Morgan feels he can handle any course, providing he has had ample time to learn problem areas, yardages, and the contours of the greens.
“I learned a lot last year in California,” he said. “There are any number of rules every player must follow at a professional venue, one that unquestionably in the biggest I have ever played on — things that are as simple as to where to park, shuttles and club rules. Fans look at us as celebrities, but we see us as professional golfers being professional and that includes our play and movement inside and outside the ropes.
“My goal is to improve over last year,” Morgan added. “I may have beaten over 100 players in the end but that was far short of my goal.”
Morgan will again have lots of family outside the ropes.
“And that is best of all,” he said. “My family will be joined by my mother and father, my brother and my wife’s sister from this area. We will meet up with two aunts and an uncle that live in that area. That uncle was instrumental in my getting started in the game. I would guess I will have as many as 15 in my entourage.”
The family left Ohio on Easter Sunday and used two days to make the 11-hour drive, as there was a two-year-old (Emerson) on board.
Morgan will not only have his Eagle Creek club members watching the leaderboard as all four days of the event will be carried on The Golf Channel will also have his former mentors at Millstone, the Cooke family, wishing him well. They were at the club last week for lunch and a chat with their former employee, one that was giving informal golf lessons at the New London course at age 14.
“I would not be where I am today had it not been for Stu and Kelli (Cooke),” Morgan said. “They were instrumental in my learning golf course management, plus they gave me enough course time for me to refine my game.”
Morgan will also be playing in better weather than last year. Heavy sweaters were the order of the day in California that week.