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Local Favorites Have Mixed Results

July 27, 2009
Gar Hamilton shot 79 Thursday. which was marred by a quadruple-bogey 8 on the fourth hole. (John Mummert/USGA)

Same could be said on Thursday for Scott Morris.

In the first round of the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club, Morris found himself among the most-watched players in the field. No surprise in that, really; he's an Indianapolis native, makes his home here in Carmel, and is the teaching pro at Gray Eagle Golf Club and Academy in nearby Fishers, Ind.

"It was just the neatest day for me," said Morris, 55, who shot a 4-over-par 76 in his first U.S. Senior Open round. "All these fans out here and this atmosphere, it just carried me along all day. I really wanted to play well for them. I probably tried too hard."

Morris is one of two professionals in the field with strong ties to Crooked Stick. Canadian Gar Hamilton played golf at Indiana University and lived in Indianapolis for a number of years. The club pro from Toronto played Crooked Stick often in the 1970s, and he competed in several Pete Dye Cup tournaments.

"It's wonderful coming back here, but it's hard to enjoy it when you're struggling with your game," said Hamilton, 59, whose round of 79 was marred by a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 eighth hole after he hooked a tee shot into the water. "You know, I struggled all day with my driver, and you can't do that here. I started out OK, and then it just kind of fell apart."

Morris started out OK, too. He birdied the par-5 11th hole, his second hole of the day, after a wedge shot to about 6 feet. That put him at a tie atop the leaderboard briefly before he bogeyed the 13th and doubled No. 14.

"I had an out-of-body experience. Then I bogeyed a few holes and got in my comfort zone," joked Morris, who was followed around the golf course by dozens of fans wearing gray T-shirts with Morris initials (SKM) emblazoned on them. "It was nerve-wracking out there, and it was harder when I started not playing well because I really wanted to do well. But the fans stayed with me."

They weren't disappointed. Morris managed to birdie both par 5s on the less difficult front nine against one bogey to shoot 35 and beat his target score of 77. "Actually I was just hoping to break 80, but I thought 77 was about right for me. I shot one under on the second nine and beat it by one. That was nice."

Morris capped off his round at the par-5 ninth hole by knocking a wedge up to about 10 feet and then draining the birdie putt. A loud roar erupted behind the green, near the clubhouse.

"I wish I could have felt looser, like I did at the end there. I finally got comfortable and played my game," Morris said. "That last hole, that was fun. The fans carried me along to the end there. That whole experience was something else. That was some roar, wasn't it?"

Yep, one that you could tell was reserved for a gallery favorite.

Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.

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