Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 21, 2013
SALISBURY — As Andrew Morgan and Ronnie Eidson prepared to tee off at the 18th hole at Corbin Hills Golf Club with Morgan 1 up, Morgan tured to Eidson and said “you knew this was gonna go 18.”
Morgan’s 97 holes of golf over the weekend included going to a playoff three times, twice needing 21 holes to finish his opponent. One of those was Sunday morning against Steve Gegorek. The final hole of the championship saw Morgan put an emphatic end to the 35th annual Horace Billings Rowan Amateur with an eagle to beat Eidson 2 up and claim his first triple-crown tournament. Morgan saved his best round for the final, shooting a 5-under par 67.
“I figured we were going extra holes,” said Morgan while clutching his Amateur championship plaque. “Every other match just about went extras so I figured something would happen.”
Prior to the Amateur, Morgan had never made it past the second round. At the Amateur, Morgan not only thrived but defeated three of the county’s esteemed colleagues.
“He played very well,” said Eidson of Morgan. “I didn’t give him anything. Everything he got he had to earn it. He played great and deserved it.”
To win, Morgan had to beat Eidson, Gegorek and defending champion Keith Dorsett Saturday in a rain-soaked 3-hole playoff. Morgan jumped out to a 3-hole lead Sunday afternoon after winning 7, 8 and 9. The 28-year-old South Rowan graduate rarely wavered from the fairway on his tee shots in the final.
“A lot of what’s going on with my tee shots was tempo,” Morgan said. “If I can keep a good rhythm off the tee, I feel pretty well. I think the only fairway I missed was 11.”
Morgan birdied holes 4,6,8 and 9 before sealing it with the eagle.
“I shot 67 and he took me to 18,” Morgan said. “That shows you how steady of a player Ronnie is. I played one of the better rounds I’ve played in a while.”
Eidson was going for his third Amateur title in four years and put in a solid championship round himself.
Eidson was qualifying medalist with a 69 last weekend while Morgan shot 74. On Sunday, Eidson a solid 2-under 70 without a bogey but only won holes 5, 10 and 16. Eidson needed a playoff hole in the semis to beat Shane Benfield.
Eidson took Hole 10 to cut Morgan’s lead to 2 up. Morgan kept pace for the five holes. Eidson hit a long putt on 16 for birdie and cut Morgan’s lead to one.
“Ronnie’s beat me in the Masters and the Amateur several times,” Morgan said. “It takes one of your better rounds to beat one of them.”
On 17, Eidson’s drive off the tee went between two trees to the left of the fairway as Morgan sustained a one-hole lead.
Morgan came up with a big tee shot on 18, a 425-yard par 5. He landed on the green on the next shot a few feet away from the hole.
“I had a gap wedge to the green,” Morgan said. “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t go over so I gave it a good firm swing.”
Eidson two-putted for par, meaning Morgan just needed to reach the hole in two shots. Like the rest of the tournament, he went beyond what was asked, hitting a 7-foot putt to end the match.
“My win gives hope to all the hacks in the county that we have a chance against the big guys,” joked a Modest Morgan.
Morgan beat Salisbury High’s Abraham Post in 19 holes Friday when Post’s short putt on the playoff hole lipped out. Saturday morning he beat another up and comer in Nick Lyerly 3&2. Sunday morning, Morgan slugged it out against Gegorek, a groundskeeper at the course.
“I didn’t play my best round but he didn’t play his best round either,” Morgan said. “I kind of got a little lucky.”