Horton Smith/Michigan Medal Play
By Joe Ballor
Like a mountain climber ascending his first summit, Greg Davies relished the view from the top of the Michigan Medal Play leader board. For Horton Smith Memorial champion John Morgan, the view from the mountaintop was more familiar, but no less enthralling.
Morgan overcame gusty winds and shot a 1-under par 139 on Detroit Golf Club's North and South Courses, claiming the Horton Smith Memorial title. Davies won the Michigan Medal Play championship with a four-round total of 2-over par 282 on the Donald Ross designed courses.
The Horton Smith Memorial is decided after 36 holes, and the scores are carried over into the MMP. The tournament memorializes Horton Smith, a two-time Masters champ who won the first event at Augusta National in 1934.
Smith, who never lost a match as a member of seven Ryder Cup teams, was a longtime pro at the Detroit club.
In The Bag:
A long and accurate driver was a key for John Morgan in his Horton Smith Memorial win. So what was the weapon of choice? A Biggest Big Bertha? A King Cobra? Maybe a new Orlimar TriMetal driver?
"I'm the only guy still playing the Invex driver, the one John Daly used to play," Morgan said. "Nobody plays it any more."
In addition to the 9-degree Invex driver, Morgan's clubs include a Cobra 3-wood, Taylor Made irons, a Wilson sand wedge and a Ping Isopur putter.
Michigan Medal Play champ Greg Davies also had a "vintage" club in his bag, a Spalding TPM No. 9 putter.
"It's an old, heavy Anser-style putter," said Davies, who's used the club for the last five years. "I get teased a lot about it. My friends say it looks like a $5 club I got at Kmart."
Davies plays a 9.5-degree Titleist Titan 975D driver, Calloway Big Bertha 3- and 4-woods, and Ping Eye2 irons and wedges.
-- Joe Ballor
For Davies, 31, the victory in the MMP affirmed his belief in his golf game. "I felt like I was ready to compete against these guys," Davies said. "I've been watching guys like Randy Lewis, Greg Reynolds, John Morgan and Bill O'Connor for years and I've finally come to the point where I feel like I can play well. It's a good stepping stone for me in that regard."
Davies held a one-stroke lead after three rounds, but after going 3-over par on the first five holes of the final round on DGC's South Course, he began to doubt himself. "I was rattled," Davies said. "Just because I started with the lead, with all these great players behind me, I knew I had to play well. The way things were going, I was thinking I might shoot 80."
It didn't take long for Davies, a 31-year-old Commerce Township resident, to get back on track. He birdied the next two holes and went 2-under on the back for an even par 68 and a three-stroke victory.
Davies, a financial advisor with Scripter and Associates, plays out of Rochester Hills Golf and Country Club. He was Michigan Publinx Player of the Year the last two years. "I had my first big win in the Syron Memorial (at Pontiac Country Club) last year and that tournament has a very good field. But the three strongest fields of the year are in the Michigan Medal Play, the GAM Championship and the Michigan Amateur.
"With this field, I was ecstatic to be able to hold on in the final round."
The victory established Davies as one of the players to watch at this year's Michigan Amateur, which will be contested at Detroit Golf Club on June 22-27.
"Winning gives you confidence. I noticed it last summer after winning the Syron. That gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. This will only give me more."
Morgan is accustomed to the view from the top, although in recent years the peaks have been less frequent. The Golf Association of Michigan's Player of the Decade for the 1980s, Morgan won the Michigan Amateur (1985), two GAM Championships (1983, 1984), three Michigan Mid-Amateurs (1985, 1988, 1996), and the Tournament of Club Champions.
"The 1990s haven't been as good as the 1980s," said Morgan, 42, who lives in Novi with his wife Alison and sons Erik, 6, and Austin, 2. "I don't play near as much, I don't practice as much and I don't have the same passion for the game. I've got kids, I'm going to T-ball games and working and golf isn't as important. That's why this is more than a bit of a surprise. I'm very excited."
Although Morgan played in the Horton Smith Memorial every year since 1982, his best previous finish was second place.
"This is a big deal," Morgan said. "It's a great honor to win the Horton Smith. We put the names of the past champions on the entries, for every year since 1955, when Chuck Kocsis won the first tournament, and my name has never been on there. Pete Green, Randy Lewis, and Greg Reynolds all have their names on there. Now my name will be on there forever.
"I'd much rather win the Medal Play over 72 holes, but winning the Horton Smith is close. It's a big honor."
Morgan is a program manager for Yazaki, a parts supplier for General Motors. He joined DGC six years ago and has served as tournament co-chairman since 1996. Local knowledge didn't help his fortunes a bit, until this spring.
"This is the first time I've made the cut (to the MMP) since I've been co-chair," Morgan said. "This is much better."
Improved putting was a key for Morgan, who has an outstanding short game. But, it was his driver that made the difference. He reached five straight par 5s in two.
"It meant a lot to him to play well and go out and win it," said Bill O'Connor, one of three Detroit Golf Club members who finished in the top seven in the MMP. O'Connor was second, 1995 MMP champ Dave Hall was fourth and Morgan finished seventh. "I was happy to see him win it.
"He's very strong mentally, he's confident and he's won a ton of times, so he's got that in the bank. It's a reserve he can tap into. He's pretty consistent and he's got a great swing. He hits good irons and drives it well. He's got it all."
Including the Horton Smith title and another view from the mountaintop.
Joe Ballor is an associate editor at The Daily Tribune in Royal Oak.
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