Oklahoma Open: Retired PGA golfer Gil Morgan is happy 'to let those kids beat up on me again'
Forgive Jaxon Dowell if he is not well-versed on the PGA career of Gil Morgan, who he is paired with this week for the first 36 holes of the Oklahoma Open.
After all, Dowell, a two-time state high school champion at Oklahoma Christian School, wasn't even alive when Morgan was winning millions of dollars on the PGA Tour.
The 18-year-old Dowell, who begins his collegiate golf career at Oklahoma this fall, also wasn't alive when Morgan won his two Oklahoma Open titles in 1981 and 1997.
"Honestly, I don't know too much about him, but I've heard a few things," Dowell said. "I know that he was the first person to reach 10-under par in a U.S. Open. I think he has around seven PGA Tour wins."
Dowell is right on both counts. Morgan, just a month shy of age 74, will play alongside Dowell and Illinois golfer Britt Pavelonis on Thursday when the Oklahoma Open begins on Oak Tree Country Club's east course.
Morgan is one of Oklahoma's most accomplished golfers. Born in Wewoka in 1946, Morgan went to East Central State College in Ada before getting a Doctor of Optometry at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.
He turned professional in 1972 and won seven PGA Tour events. He was one of the game's most consistent players, finishing second 21 times and third 21 times in his PGA Tour career.
His best season was in 1978, when he finished second on the money list. He finished fifth in 1983 and 11th in 1990. He then excelled on the Champions Tour, where he won 25 times.
Morgan is the oldest golfer by far in the three-day Oklahoma Open.
"I am going to let those kids beat up on me again," Morgan said. "I played last year but I didn't do very well. I thought I would try it again this year and see if I could keep from embarrassing myself again."
Morgan said he doesn't swing the clubs enough anymore to play as well as he once did. He quit playing a full schedule on the Champions Tour three years ago.
"I haven't put in the time to play and practice enough to really be where I feel like I was good at it," he said. "I keep trying and piddling around. I've gotten too old really to compete very much. But this one here (Oklahoma Open), it's right across the street. It's easy to be able to go over and get a little bit of competition and see where I am."
This is the 34th consecutive year the Oklahoma Open has been held at Oak Tree Country Club, the place Morgan has called home since 1979. Morgan said the course played long for him during a practice round on Monday.
"I don't know if it will do that on Thursday or not. It will depend on wind direction and a lot of other things, but I am kind of looking forward to trying to play," Morgan said. "I haven't played really competitively since probably the Oklahoma Open last year and I played in the Pro-Scratch at the club. That's about the only two things I did last year."
Morgan said it would be fun to compete again if he could play as well as he once did.
"It seems like I hit too many of those, 'Gosh, I never hit one like that,'" he said.
Morgan had committed to play in a Champions event in Branson, Missouri, this week but withdrew out of caution because of COVID-19. Morgan said he and his family are taking the pandemic seriously.
"We all stay pretty much around the house," he said. "We've been pretty careful. All I have done outside is play golf a little bit."
As a past champion, Morgan doesn't have to qualify for the Oklahoma Open, which began in 1910 and has been held every year except during World War II (1943-45). The field is 156 golfers, which will be cut to the top 40 after Friday's round.
Dowell has never met Morgan. He views the next two days as an opportunity to learn from an old pro.
"I think it will be a cool experience to play with him and talk to him," Dowell said. "Maybe ask him some questions about the tour and all that good stuff. I'm excited about it. It should be fun and a good experience for me to learn a lot from one of the best players to come through Oklahoma."
Where: Oak Tree Country Club (east course) in Edmond