Luke Morgan walked off the ninth hole and couldn’t believe it was happening again.
“What is it about this tournament?” he’d ask his uncle and Assistant Golf Coach Sean Morgan at the turn in between the front and back nine.
Luke’s been in this situation before. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he led the OSSAA Class 5A State Tournament heading into the final day. Both times he failed to close the deal. His freshman year, Piedmont’s Dustin Hasley just played better, shooting two-under on the final day to claim the individual title. Last season, Morgan had a collapse, shooting a 13-over, 85 on the final day to finish in third place.
He entered the final day of the tournament on Tuesday with a six-stroke lead. By the time he walked off the ninth green, he was six-over-par on the day. His 42 on the front nine was the worst score Luke has shot on any nine holes this season.
There was a palpable feeling spreading through the gallery following Morgan. Everyone in the crowd began to exchange looks, as if to say ‘no way this is happening again, right?’
But it was happening again...
No one wanted to address it except for Coach Morgan. That’s when a conversation took place inside the Lawton Country Club concourse.
“I basically pointed out the elephant in the room,” Sean Morgan said. “I could tell he was thinking too much and the thought of blowing another chance was entering his mind. We had a conversation and I told him that he could keep playing like he’s playing and it can be déjà vu all over again, or he can go out and play like he knows he’s capable of and win it.”
Luke walked to the tee box on the 10th hole and piped one down the middle of the fairway. That’s when you could see his body relax. He birdied the hole and then everything started to fall into place.
“I knew it was hard to make mistakes on the back nine and I knew if I was gong to win this thing that I’d have to make a move,” Luke Morgan said. “I hit a perfect tee shot on 10 and when I birdied the hole, I kind of found something with my swing and that helped me the rest of the way.”
The turning point in the day came on the 12th hole. Morgan again hit a perfect tee shot, almost driving the green.
“After his tee shot on 12, he looked over at me and said ‘I’m going to go win this thing,’” Coach Morgan said.
Walking up to the 12th green, Coach Morgan advised Luke to protect the birdie opportunity, and to perhaps leave it a little short. Without missing a beat, Luke looked at his uncle and said, ‘I’m going to chip this in.”
Luke’s chip found the bottom of the cup. There was no doubt in his mind once it left his club, as he raised his wedge before it went in. He let out a monstrous ‘Let’s go!’ and did a fist pump. That’s when Coach Morgan knew this was going to be his year.
“Once he did his fist pump and yelled, I could see all the tension leave his body,” Coach Morgan said. “I knew that he was going to go win it after that.”
Before getting to the tee box on 13, Luke admits he knew he was in great position to win. He had to calm himself down before hitting his next shot.
“I got super excited after that chip on 12 that before I got to 13 I had to talk myself down,” Morgan said. “I told myself that the last hole was over and I had to come back down to earth and finish this thing. I told myself that I was only on the 13th hole. I didn’t really miss a shot after that.”
Luke went on to shoot a one-under, 34 on the back to finish with a 76 on the day. He knew he had a chance, that it was unlikely anyone shot a 69 on the day, but he still had to wait and see.
Inside the ballroom of the Lawton Country Club, scores began to come in. Luke’s eyes started to tear up as he and his uncle shared a hug. After three years of waiting for his turn, it was official—he had finally done it.
“The doubt definitely came into my head,” Luke said about the first nine holes. “I just had to trust my game and trust the time I’ve put in. I knew I was the best player out here, I just had to play like it. “
The way Luke responded after playing his worst nine holes of the year and answering with a one-under on the back shows what kind of a player he is. Responding in the face of adversity is what true champions do.
“It just shows you what kind of player he truly is,” Head Coach Ric Meshew said. “There is not one player that could come out here and do what he did on the front and say they weren’t thinking about it. For him to come out and do what he did over the last nine holes, it just speaks to his talent and mental toughness. He could’ve folded but he didn’t. I’m so proud of him.”
**This story will run in Saturday's edition of The Guthrie News Leader