Since he won the inaugural Mayor’s Cup at Whispering Pines Golf Club in 2006, Lorcan Morris played professional golf for three years and caddied on the PGA and LPGA tours for seven years for players including Robert Damron and Michelle Wie.
This spring he returned to his home in Charlotte, N.C., to take a full-time job in a company owned by his in-laws and spend more time with his family, and he regained his amateur status.
That has allowed him to return to the Mayor’s Cup for the first time since his victory.
Morris will be among approximately 60 participants later this week in the revamped 54-hole tournament that serves as the city amateur championship of sorts, though it is open to anyone 18 years or older without resident requirements.
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It is being played at Whispering Pines on Friday, Pine Lakes Country Club on Saturday and the Grande Dunes Resort Course on Sunday.
This is the first year it has expanded to courses other than Whispering Pines, as Chip Smith, owner of Atlantic Golf Management, which operates Whispering Pines, and Founders Group International general manager Tom Plankers, whose company owns and operates both Pine Lakes and the Resort Course, joined forces to include the city’s three courses.
The men’s and women’s tournaments have been combined into the same dates this year, and organizers were hoping for up to 100 players. Registration closed last week. An entry fee of $249 includes a tee gift, lunch each day and a post-tournament awards banquet at Grande Dunes.
“We’re looking forward to having a city champion, with the three courses in the city limits all participating,” said Keith Stanzel, a tournament organizer and Whispering Pines director of marketing and sales. “We certainly hope we can continue with this, but with a level of increased participation.”
A USGA Women’s Four-Ball Qualifier is being held Friday at Legend Oaks Golf Club in Summerville and likely took some women from the event.
Morris, 34, is returning, however, and he comes with quite a story to tell.
The native of Belfast, Ireland, traveled to America alone from Ireland at the age of 17 with nothing but a set of golf clubs, $100 and an ambition to play professional golf.
His parents didn’t support his decision, so he said he sold one of his two sets of clubs for $800 and bought a plane ticket to Miami for $700.
There, he said he asked a cab driver to take him to the nearest golf course and he was brought to International Links, where he met club manager Charles DeLucca.
Morris said DeLucca set him up with a place to stay – albeit maids quarters at a hotel adjacent to the course – in exchange for shagging balls on the course’s range from 6:30-10 a.m. each day. The agreement began with a two-week trial period and lasted 18 months, Morris said.
Morris said he finished second in a junior event to Sean Moore, the 2005 North-South Amateur champion, and Moore’s father, Wally, then the golf coach at Wingate University, was caddying for his son. The elder Moore eventually offered Morris a scholarship based on his performance in the event.
He played at Wingate and earned a broadcast journalism degree in 2006, then won the Amateur Golf Tour Championship (now Golfweek Amateur Tour) at Wild Wing Plantation in 2005 by playing the final five holes 4-under par, and the Mayor’s Cup the next year before turning pro.
He played on the Carolinas Pro Golf Tour as well as the eGolf and Hooters tours, which have both been incorporated into the Grand Strand-based SwingThought Tour. His last pro tournament round was June 12, 2009. “To walk away from the sport I worked my whole life for was like a death,” Morris said.
But he didn’t leave the world of professional golf. Instead he called World Golf Hall of Fame member Laura Davies, whom he befriended at the age of 12, to help him begin a caddying career on the LPGA Tour.
Morris tells the story of meeting Davies, who is a unique and jovial character, at the 1994 Irish Open. Davies was playing a late practice round and Morris was a Boy Scout assigned to change bags in trash cans. He was changing the trash can on the 11th tee box when she invited him to caddie for her for her final eight holes. She paid him 100 pounds, gave Morris her number and told him to keep in touch that week. He did, and has kept in touch with her ever since.
Morris caddied for Marissa Baena in 2009 and Shi-Hyun Ahn for much of 2010 before being offered a job on the PGA Tour by Robert Damron, whom he caddied for from 2010-12, making more than $100,000 in two of the years, Morris said.
Morris said during the 2012 season Damron, believing that then PGA Tour rookie Mark Anderson of Beaufort had more earning potential, gave Morris to Anderson. “I told him I liked working for him and I wanted to work for him,” Morris said. “[Damron] said, ‘Then I’ll fire you and you’ll be out of a job.’ Robert looked out for me, and it’s unusual for players to do that at that level.”
Anderson didn’t retain his PGA Tour card for 2013, and Morris was offered a job back on the LPGA by Katie Futcher, who he said paid him a flat salary that was more than he expected to make on the PGA Tour. Her father, Jack Futcher, is president and COO of the Bechtel Group engineering and construction company.
He moved on to Sydnee Michaels for two years through May 2015, worked for Australian Sarah Kemp, caddied for Michelle Wie for five tournaments on the LPGA’s Asian swing late last year, then returned to Kemp.
Morris, who has an 8-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son with wife Kimberly, said he was on FaceTime with his daughter in June and asked if she was excited about an upcoming dance recital.
He said she responded, ‘What do you care, you’re never here for anything.’ ”
After that, Morris returned home, started his job at the Trueco Inc utility and construction vehicle sales company and started playing more golf, often with his daughter.
“She was right but I didn’t think about it,” he said. “You’re just thinking about providing for your family. I was never thinking they were actually missing me. It really put it into perspective when she said that.”
I decided I’m going to play amateur golf, compete and do what makes me happy and what makes my family happy. I couldn’t stop caddying and not be competitive at something.
Morris plans to play in a few significant mid-amateur tournaments next year. “I decided I’m going to play amateur golf, compete and do what makes me happy and what makes my family happy,” he said. “I couldn’t stop caddying and not be competitive at something.”
Supers on Strand
Golf course superintendents from throughout the Carolinas have flocked to Myrtle Beach this week in an effort to improve their agronomy practices and course conditions.
They’re in the area to get the latest education, research and equipment updates at the annual Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association Conference and Trade Show, which runs from Monday through Wednesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Close to 200 individual companies are represented as nearly 400 exhibitor booths are occupied.
More than 1,300 seats have been sold for a slate of education featuring 28 seminars, including 16 that are new to the conference. The show involves some recreation, as the golf championship at Barefoot Resort’s four courses on Monday attracted 330 registrants and another 40 show-goers will compete in a sporting clays championship.
Events at the show include a Student Turf Bowl presented in partnership with Precision Laboratories, and presentation of the CGCSA Distinguished Service Award to Turner Revels, president of Revels Turf and Tractor based in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., and a key figure at the root of John Deere’s rise to becoming a powerhouse in the golf industry.
A series of events created over the past few years by marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday continue to gain popularity, as a sold-out field of 324 golfers from 35 states and Canada are participating this week in the third annual four-round Myrtle Beach Fall Classic.
It is being played Monday through Thursday on 12 courses that all among the top courses on the Grand Strand.
“The number of participants and the distances they are traveling to play in the tournament are a testament to everything the Fall Classic offers,” said Jeff Monday, Golf Holiday’s tournament director.
The number of participants and the distances they are traveling to play in the tournament are a testament to everything the Fall Classic offers.
Golf Holiday tournament director Jeff Monday
Courses being used are Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, True Blue Golf Club, Barefoot Resort’s Fazio and Norman courses, Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links, the Grande Dunes Resort Course, Myrtle Beach National’s King’s North course, Long Bay Club, Pawleys Plantation, Prestwick Country Club, Thistle Golf Club and Tidewater Golf Club.
Formats in the 72-hole net stroke play event are best ball, Texas scramble, combined net team score and captain’s choice scramble.
Players, who are coming from as far away as Hawaii, are receiving a welcome gift, hors d’oeuvres and open bar during a registration party, and a Thursday evening awards dinner at Marina Inn featuring a plated dinner, open bar and an awards presentation.
Tournaments upcoming in 2017 include the MB Preseason Classic, MB March Championship, Calabash Cup, and Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship.
SwingThought on way
The SwingThought Tour is beginning its 2016-17 Carolina Winter Series this week with a Myrtle Beach Swing that consists of five weeks of tournaments in the area.
A 36-hole tournament Thursday and Friday at Myrtlewood Golf Club’s Palmetto Course will be followed by four events at Barefoot Resort. There will be 36-hole events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 on the Norman Course, Dec. 7-8 on the Fazio Course and Dec. 14-15 on the Love Course, and a 54-hole no-cut event Dec. 20-22 at the Dye Club.
The two-round events are $600-$650 for members and $700-$750 for non-members, and the 54-hole event is $825 for members and $925 for non-members. Winners will be paid on-site, and a minimum of 80 percent of entry fees will be paid back in the purses.
Carolina Winter Series events allow riding, shorts and rangefinders without slope functions. Call tour director Terry Johnson at 864-316-1067 for information about limited host housing for Barefoot events, and call 800-992-8748 or visit the tour website to register for tournaments.
The SwingThought Tour has created a winter state series money list challenge that has sweetened the pot for players in events through Feb. 15.
Players finishing first on a state series money list earn free 2017 SwingThought Tour membership plus a $1,000 bonus, and players finishing second through fourth on a money list earn between 75 percent and 25 percent of 2017 membership fees, as well as between $750 and $250 in bonuses. Participation in at least four events is required for eligibility.
First Tee fundraising
The First Tee of the Grand Strand and First Tee of Brunswick County are in the midst of fundraising campaigns to support their 2017 programs and scholarships.
The First Tee is a youth development organization that involves the nine core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, courtesy, confidence, judgment and perseverance in its golf programs.
The First Tee National School Program is taught in 11 Georgetown County and 14 Horry County elementary schools during physical education classes, impacting more than 9,000 K-5 youth annually, and the First Tee also provides after-school and Saturday programming, and works with the Grand Strand Miracle League.
Visit www.TheFirstTeeTheGrandStrand.org, call executive director Rich Abraham at 843-325-6787 or program director Patrick O’Brien at 843-467-3020 to donate or volunteer.
As part of the Brunswick County campaign, a golf ball drop will be held Friday, during which numbered golf balls will be dropped onto a green. The balls closest to each of three designated holes will win prizes, which include a two-night Greenbrier (W.Va.) Resort getaway, rounds at True Blue and Caledonia and a playing lesson for a foursome. A single contest ball is $10 and 15 can be purchased for $100. Register at www.BallDropForKids.org, visit TheFirstTeeBrunswickCounty.org or call 910-754-5288 for more information.