Golfer finds the good life after 50

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa World

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) -- Everyone should get to undergo the changes in life that Gil Morgan has since turning 50.

That's when the 54-year-old Edmond resident started playing on the Senior PGA Tour.

Since joining the tour in September of 1996, Morgan has won 19 tourneys, including his most recent win at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla. His $210,000 first-place check put him over the $8 million mark.

Morgan's combined lifetime earnings (PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour) is now at $13.4 million. Only Hale Irwin, with $17.8 million, has made more.

Morgan won seven times on the PGA Tour. His earnings were a respectable $5.2 million. Nothing, however, prepared him for what has happened since.

He had a solid career on the PGA Tour, but nothing to hint that he'd become one of the Senior Tour's dominant players.

Morgan, however, planned for his transition in life.

In the years leading up to his 50th birthday, he paid close attention to the Senior PGA Tour and realized it was all about touch around and on the greens.

He won in his second Senior PGA Tour event and has a rate of almost four victories a year.

"I think the major difference is that I'm putting at a higher level than I did on the regular tour," he said. "I just kept working on mechanics. I think I work on my putting more than anything else."

Morgan's contribution to the tour that has been so good to him is expected to be felt this fall, when the Senior PGA Tour Championship comes to Gaillardia Golf and Country Club in Oklahoma City on Oct. 25-28.

The tournament was moved from Myrtle Beach, S.C., when its sponsor bailed out. E.K. Gaylord II and Oklahoma Publishing Co.

then agreed to put up the record $2.5 million purse.

Gaylord said the community would enthusiastically embrace the event. Much of that is due to locals like Morgan, Doug Tewell and possibly Mark Hayes playing in the event.

Morgan's daughters -- Molly, Maggie and Melanie -- have already been warned of what to do when asked by friends about tickets to the event. Their mother, Jeanine, joked that "we've given them the ticket office number and told them to give it out."

The event is for this year's top 30 money winners. Morgan is currently second with $258,985.

The only thing that could keep him from qualifying is injury.

He missed the first two months of last year following an off-season ribcage injury. Still, he ended up fourth on the money list with $1,873,216 in 23 events -- the fewest he has played in one season on the Senior PGA Tour. He finished out of the top 25 just four times the entire year and ended up leading the tour in four categories, including scoring (68.83), total driving (19), birdie average (4.58) and a fourth consecutive all-around (57) title.

"My goal in every tournament," he said, "is to have a chance with nine holes to go. If I make a putt or two, I might have a chance."