Becky Morgan felt relief more than anything. After 18 years in the business, the 44-year-old landed her first professional title in India, of all places. That’s a long way from her native Wales, and even farther from her home in Corvallis, Ore. (over 7,000 miles). A 14-hour flight back across the globe never felt so good.
“Walking through an airport with a replica trophy is a very satisfying feeling!!” Morgan tweeted after she landed in Newark, N.J. Only hours before, and a world away, her close friends on the Ladies European Tour had filled that very trophy with gin and tonic at the hotel bar.
Morgan’s victory at Hero Women’s Indian Open was a popular one among players on both the LPGA and LET. She’s been competing in India for nearly a decade and feels comfortable there, noting that the first-tee starter told her this could be her year on Sunday. Given that Morgan was tied for the lead with the two other players in her group, it was both a kind and awkward exchange. But off she went with her usual local caddie, Hari Ram, and a personal mantra cooked up by a friend before the start of the round – calm, centered and in control.
When it got down to crunch time at DLF Golf and Country Club, good friend Beth Allen stared a hole through the scoreboards as she played several groups ahead. By the time Morgan got to the 18th green, more than two dozen players had come out to watch the finish. Many were taping the action on their phones, chuffed to see a rare fist-pump from their steady friend.
“Oh my god, look it, emotion!” Allen gasped.
Back home in Oregon, Morgan watched the replay on television.
“It’s kind of cool to watch yourself do well in a tournament and not screw it up,” she said, only half-joking. There have been plenty of close calls over the years.
Golf had become such a grind for Morgan that for the past six months she’d been mulling over the idea of hanging it up. Actually, it had been a struggle for the better part of seven years.
Morgan first earned status on both the LET and LPGA in 2001 after winning 10 times at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“I’ve had an OK career,” she said, “fairly consistent. But just not having ever won just always bugged me a little bit.”
Maybe more than a little. The truth is she would’ve been disappointed had she retired without a trophy.
After a frustrating LPGA season in which she missed 10 cuts, Morgan decided not to sign up for this year’s Q-School. She hoped to play in Europe full-time in 2019 but wasn’t sure if even that was possible given that she hadn’t been able to reach the minimum number of events (six) due to tournaments dropping off the schedule late in the year. She’d asked European officials if they would drop the minimum to five events like they did in 2017. Morgan actually got word on Saturday evening that the number would stay at six.
“Definitely some added motivation on Sunday,” she said.
Now, what comes next can return to the back burner as she’s in good shape for 2019 on the LET and in the market for win No. 2. She’s also looking ahead to her 45th birthday, when she’s eligible for the Legends Tour and Senior LPGA Championship.
This was a victory for those who needed a little inspiration. An extra dose of stick-to-itveness for what can be an unrelenting game. People like to say the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are, but for players who look around and see young guns half their age hoisting trophies week after week, it’s hard to look the other direction.
Allen, 36, was on a bus last year in Mexico City when Katherine Kirk said to her: “Did you know that you’re the 11th-oldest person on tour? I’m 12th.”
Kirk actually went on to win her third career title last year on the LPGA. Now Morgan can join the likes of 40-year-old Angela Stanford (2018 Evian winner) and 55-year-old Laura Davies, who recently wrapped up her second senior major title of the year, as seasoned pros who are bucking trends.
“I think it’s an awesome kind of lesson for everybody for Becky to have one at 44 after 100-and-however-many starts,” said Allen. “That it can happen.”