The PGA TOUR Champions made its Des Moines debut in 2001. It was, shall we say, a stormy start.
The first-round leader was Dr. Gil Morgan, who shot an opening 65. The round took two days to complete – 16 holes on Friday, the last two on Saturday. The first round started four hours behind schedule because of severe weather, had two more suspensions and wasn’t completed until Saturday. Morgan was one of 51 players who had their opening round stretch over two days. And no fans were allowed on the course Friday because of those severe conditions.
Morgan would end up finishing second, two shots behind winner Jim Thorpe. But Morgan has been No. 1 when it comes to longevity.
Now 69 years old, Morgan is the only player from that inaugural 78-player field who has played in all 15 Principal Charity Classics (note: prior to Principal becoming the event’s title sponsor in 2007, it was previously known as the Allianz Championship).
“Iowa has been kind of good to me,” Morgan said after finishing play in 2015.
Morgan won seven times on the PGA TOUR. He also has 26 victories on the PGA Champions Tour, over a 12-year span, including this championship in 2006. That was the 25th of his 26 wins as a senior.
He’s completed on three different courses at the Principal – Glen Oaks, Tournament Club of Iowa and the Wakonda Club. That’s 45 official rounds, and many more in pro-ams.
“We just keep going around, and around, and around,” Morgan said.
And that doesn’t include his appearance at the 1999 U.S. Senior Open at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club, where he tied for third.
Here are some statistics that put Morgan’s 15 Des Moines visits in perspective:
- He’s broken par in at least one round every year. He broke par all three rounds when winning in 2006 (66-64-67) and tying for seventh in 2002 (69-66-70).
- His all-time Principal Charity Classic stroke average is 70.3.
- He’s posted 17 rounds in the 60s.
- He’s broken par in 24 of 45 rounds.
- He’s finished under par in eight of the 15 tournaments he’s played.
- Three of his 161 career Top 10 PGA TOUR Champions finishes came in this event, all at Glen Oaks: his victory in 2006, his second-place finish in 2001 and his tie for seventh in 2002.
- He’s earned $554,687.78 while playing in this tournament. That’s $36,979.19 per visit. It also comes out to $ 12,326.34 per round and $175.26 per shot.
“Sometimes I think I’ve got to be an idiot to keep doing this,” Morgan said. “Making these bogeys and hitting it in the water. Three-putting, all that stuff, works on your psyche. But as long as I feel like I’ve got somewhat of a chance to play well, I’m probably going to keep playing.”
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Morgan, who turns 70 in September, has played in just three PGA TOUR Champions events in 2016. And he’s not entered the Principal Charity Classic at last check.
If he doesn’t return, Morgan will leave behind a consistency of performance that will be hard to top.
“When I go home, the trophies are there,” Morgan said. “At the same time, it doesn’t have that big of an impact on me. I was lucky to be able to do that.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter