Hero of ’07 Walker Cup follows his heart
While the U.S. Walker Cup team takes on Great Britain & Ireland this week at storied Merion, the hero of the last biennial match will be at a Hooters Tour event.
Two years ago, Jonathan Moore made eagle on Royal County Down’s 18th hole to clinch the United States’ 12 1/2-11 1/2 victory. He hit a 4-iron from 252 yards to 3 feet to set up the eagle and beat Nigel Edwards, 1 up, in singles.
Moore still sees that shot on occasion on Golf Channel highlights or while visiting friends who have it saved on their DVRs.
The fact that he’ll spend the two-year anniversary at a mini-tour event in Mississippi might sound like the classic case of an amateur star struggling as a pro, but Moore is happy with what he's accomplished thus far.
Moore, 24, got married earlier this summer and lives in Broken Arrow, Okla. He has two professional victories to his name while playing various mini-tours, and has made a handful of PGA Tour and Nationwide starts.
“I’m encouraged about how I continue to get better every year,” he said. “I enjoy playing at this level. I know I’ll enjoy playing at the next level. You have to believe that what you have right now is good enough, and I do believe that.”
This week’s Silver Star Hotel and Casino Golf Classic in Choctaw, Miss., will be Moore’s second Hooters event of the year. It’s part of a piecemeal schedule, highlighted by a victory on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series.
Moore is the only member of the ’07 team – besides the retired Trip Kuehne – not to play a PGA Tour event this year. He qualified for one Nationwide Tour start, missing the cut in Knoxville.
Moore has made most of his starts on the eGolf Tarheel Tour, where he is 89th on the money list. He has earned slightly less than $12,000 in 10 starts, making five of 10 cuts, with three top-20 finishes. His first professional victory came on that tour in 2008.
His third attempt at PGA Tour Q-School will begin with a first-stage qualifier at Grasslands Golf & Country Club on Oct. 27-30 in Lakeland, Fla. He failed to advance out of the first stage in 2007, then missed in the second stage last year after winning his first-stage qualifier.
Moore’s career has been defined by its ups and downs. He was a three-time, first-team AJGA All-American who redshirted his freshman season at Oklahoma State while mired in a horrible slump. The next season, he won the 2006 NCAA individual title and Players Amateur and qualified for that year’s U.S. Open. But he was a controversial Walker Cup selection in 2007 because of mediocre performances that summer.
He said he is encouraged by the victories in each of his two pro seasons, and improvements to his physical and mental games.
“I’ve never known Jonathan Moore to stay down very long,” said his college coach, Mike McGraw. “I think that’s his strongest attribute, his positive thinking and his ability to turn tough situations into better ones.”
Moore has worked with David Leadbetter for the past year-and-a-half on keeping the clubface square throughout the swing. That fix helps him hit the ball higher and longer, and play more relaxed because he can freely release the club instead of guiding it through impact.
“I’m trying to learn how to get out of my own way and free up,” Moore said. “I’m probably someone who holds on to things a little too tight. If things are relaxed, it allows the club to work in a way it needs to.”
This week, while Moore is in Choctaw, Miss., Walker Cup teammates Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson are competing for the big bucks at the BMW Championship, the third stage of the PGA Tour playoffs.
Colt Knost also has his PGA Tour card, and Chris Kirk is a Nationwide Tour member. Billy Horschel, Jamie Lovemark and Kyle Stanley turned pro earlier this year and have competed in PGA Tour events. Rickie Fowler is playing his second Walker Cup this week, while Kuehne, who won the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur, retired from competitive golf after the 2008 Masters.
“There really hasn’t been anything frustrating about it for me,” Moore said. “I love playing golf. I love competing.”