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Morley continues to pave his footprints on the fairways
Dec. 25, 2000
 

EDITOR'S NOTE: PGATOUR.com's "Life Beyond The Green" feature gives fans a chance to catch up with players who may have disappeared from view. Today's subject is Mike Morley. Give us the names of other players you'd like to see featured in the coming weeks.

By Nick Nicholas
PGATOUR.COM contributor

Life is easy if you can remain on course. It's easier if that course is a golf course.

Former PGA TOUR player Mike Morley stayed on a tee-to-green pathway despite walking away from the tournament grind.

Morley, 54, continues to pave his footprints on fairways, but as a designer and construction supervisor. He's in his 12th year in the business, molding golf courses mainly in Minnesota.

"I wish I would have got into it when I was younger," said Morley, who won the 1977 Ed McMahon Quad Cities Open and '72 Magnolia Classic, referred to as a Second Tour stop. "I was piddling around the Asian Tour so I could still make a living playing. I didn't want to be a club pro.

"When you get out of the playing aspect of golf, it's pretty tough unless you're an accountant or attorney, and nobody (on the TOUR) really is. It's tough finding a different career and starting over again, especially when you're in your late 30s.

"Those were painful years. Hopefully they are over with."

He lost his PGA TOUR card in 1984 and opted to "dillydally for two or three years" on international golf circuits. Playing on the Asian Tour made him realize that maybe golf was no longer his ticket.

So Morley left golf to sell real estate for a year in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But in 1989, he created an opportunity to return to golf when he converted a piece of land into Rio Salado Golf Course, a modest nine-hole layout in Phoenix.

He was back in business -- the golf business, that is. Since then, he has designed seven golf courses from scratch and tackled a couple of course-renovation assignments.

Most of his designs are in America's Heartland.

His favorite is The Preserve, which opened in 1993 in Minnesota's Brainerd Lakes area. But he predicts that his Golden Eagle course, 35 miles north of Brainerd, will be a better mouse trap.

Morley prefers working on one course at a time and to be on site during the process.

Although he is a fan of former PGA TOUR standout Tom Weiskopf's designs, he doesn't pattern his courses after anyone's. Instead, he said he allows natural surroundings to dictate his routing plans.

Not only is he a designer, but Morley is a project manager for courses and on-site housing developments.

"I've got to make up my mind. I'd like to probably get out of the construction part of it and stay in the design," he said. "I'm working too hard."

Morley hopes to be in Colorado this summer and be hired as a project manager for two championship courses expected to open in two or three years.

"Of course, we'd all like to be playing for the money they are playing now," he said.

Many players who make the PGA TOUR begin playing golf before learning to ride a bicycle.

Morley fit close to that description.

At 10, he developed his swing despite living in two states known more for snowballs than golf balls. His first memory of swinging a club was in Minnesota before refining his skills as a junior player/caddy at a Minot, N.D., country club where his family belonged.

"Most people (in North Dakota) were big, strong Norwegians, and here I was an English-Irishman," Morley said. "I could beat most of the people in the hand-eye game. They were a little too big for me to play football against, and that's how I got into it."

It turned out to be a good choice because he eventually captured two North Dakota State Amateur titles in the mid-60s.

He earned a spot on the Arizona State golf team and All-American honors in 1967-68. After a stint as the program's freshman coach, Morley took a full swing at the PGA TOUR.

He finished 29th on the money list in 1976, winning $88,348.

"There was a fine line in those days," he said. "You could finish 25th and win $88,000. The money, it wasn't like it's my life. Everybody knew that they were going to have to do something else when they were done playing."

 
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