The Director of Golf at Eagle Creek, Morgan figured four-over par, or something at one-under on Monday, would more than likely allow him to make the 36-hole cut of 90-players and ties.
And he was right on. The problem was he could not dial it in that low on Belfair’s East Course in Bluffton, S.C. He shot another 76, giving him a two-day total of 152, nine-over par. The cut line wavered all day Monday between four and five over. It finally settled at plus-5, four strokes less than what Morgan shot.
Unlike his start Sunday when he made the leaderboard after seven holes, Morgan bogeyed the first hole and double-bogeyed the second.
“I knew it would be tough to make up that many strokes after that kind of start,” he said. “I did the best I could in playing the last 16 holes in two-over but with just one birdie, that coming on 16, it was too much to ask for.”
His nine-over par finish was still quite an improvement over last year when he was 11-over after the first day.
Although the field averaged two strokes higher on the east course, Morgan found the only difference was the speed of the greens. The approaches were shaved. Shots struck with little authority rolled back to the players feet.
“The greens were only a year old, so they were quick,” Morgan said. “Playing the course a few times would have been an immense help. As I look back, I probably could have played another day if my putting was a bit sharper. My tee-to-green game was good enough.
“No question my inability to get practice rounds was instrumental in my failure to make the cut,” he added. “But I’m more than satisfied with my performance. Shooting back-to-back 76’s on foreign courses make me wonder just how good I can play if I have ample time to prepare. There is no substitute for proper preparation.”
When Morgan finished his practice round last Wednesday, it was his first 18-hole round of 2019.
“When I told the guys I played with about that, they could not believe the 69 I shot,” he said. “Man, I would have loved to have saved that round for (Monday).”
As far as his playing partners, Jeff Brehout from Los Altos, Calif., put a 75 with this first day 78 total to finish plus-10. Victoria, Tex. pro Joe Mitchell shot 79-76—155 to finish 12-over.
Retired Eagle Creek professional Gary Wilkins realized just how tough it is for a player out of the Midwest to play competitive golf virtually out of a snow bank. And that’s what Morgan faced this year.
Wilkins, at age 33, qualified for the national PGA event in 1984 at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala. He qualified from the national club pro (identical to the tournament Morgan played in) at LaQuinta Golf Club in Palm Springs, Calif.
“The biggest difference between my qualifying and David’s this week was I was in top form as the LaQuinta tournament was played in October of 1983, almost a full year before I teed it up at Shoal Creek,” Wilkins said. “I had plenty of warm weather time to prepare.”
Although Wilkins was on top of his game, he still came close to letting his chance slip away.
“I got off to a good start in the fourth and final round on the mountain course at LaQunita, even though it was quite windy,” Wilkins said. “But then I hit a streak where I bogeyed four out of five holes. I saw it slipping away and still had to play probably the toughest three holes, 16, 17 and 18. But, I dug down, hitting a great second shot on 16 to within four-feet, making birdie.
“I followed with another birdie, this one from 12-feet on the par 3, 17th hole, and then finished with another birdie on the par five, 18th hole when I hit my second shot into the fringe of the green and two-putted,” he added. “I made the cut by three strokes.”
Wilkins admitted that Morgan is at a huge disadvantage because of the date changes for the national PGA event. Originally it was played in August, which would give the 20 club pros who make it out of their national tournament this week ample time to prepare for a course like Bethpage Black. This year, the turnaround is just 14 days.
And Wilkins knows all about qualifying for the national club pro. He did it 11 times — including five times as a senior player when he believed he was playing the best golf of his career.
“I virtually quit playing competitive golf when I was 44,” he said. “Four years later, my interest was renewed, mainly because I started striking the ball on the range better than ever. I played a couple Tornado Tour events at 48, the first at Fowler’s Mill where my son, Ben, played his college golf.
“I won that event, so I tried it again at Kevin Larizza’s course (Chippewa Golf Club) and won that won, too,” Wilkins added. “Like I said, I was 50 and really on top of my game. Then back trouble hit and I suddenly my best days were behind me.”