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Golden Bear is Morgan's target; Veteran John back from US.

JOHN Morgan, former professional at Royal Liverpool, is back on the European Seniors Tour after his experiences playing the American seniors circuit.

It heightened his golf talents, left him financially secure for life and gave him the chance to renew his challenge against his boyhood heroes, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.

He is 58, a professional for more than three decades and he has been through the experiences of playing alongside the world stars during 24 years on the European Tour. But he still confesses to having felt a sense of awe in the presence of three of golf's greatest legends and particularly Nicklaus.

Indeed he played alongside Nicklaus in a practice round in Florida and admits to having been so nervous his throat was dry and he duffed his 3-iron off the tee, 160 yards.

But playing the American Seniors Tour he finally played tournaments where he finished ahead of his idols Palmer and Player - but never Nicklaus.

Then last year in the British Seniors Open in Ireland he holed a 10-foot putt on the last green to tie with Nicklaus for third place. I was probably Morgan's greatest golfing satisfaction.

"You play golf for the competition, " he explains. "You play to measure your own performances and, if you play well, okay, the money is there." He played very well during his seniors career in America. He earned the equivalent of about pounds 900,000.

"It's a lot of money, " he says. "I finished up quite wealthy. I don't worry about money any more. I cannot believe I am saying that. I come from such a working-class background."

John is from Hoylake and, borrowing some clubs and encouraged by his mother - now in her 80s and still playing golf - he began playing as a teenager at Hoylake Municipal. He graduated through the Cheshire county teams and turned professional in his mid-20s.

Morgan played the European Tour for 24 years and in the one year he failed to retain his card, he won it back immediately before going on to design golf courses, actually shaping the landscape, a job he says which gave him a fantastic sense of satisfaction, almost, he says, smiling, as much as actually playing the game.

Aged 50, he joined the Seniors Tour, won the order of merit in his second season, finished second in the next two years and then decided to try the American Tour.

One reason was the urge to take on Palmer, Player and Nicklaus.

"They had beaten me as a younger player. They had won everything and I was a journeyman.

But they were older but I had done well on the European Tour and I was fit (he was a cross-country runner and with Liverpool Harriers when young) and I wanted to play against them. It was the challenge, the next level up, " he explained.

"America was a wonderful experience. The Seniors Tour is for the spectators, entertainment. But it is still competitive, a tough school and I felt I was learning. Everything, the practice facilities, the hotels, the courses, is marvellous.

We would start the season in Florida, move to Mexico, California, then north when the weather up there improved and south again when the winter came to the north.

A glamorous life? The real glamour is being on the first tee with Nicklaus."

Morgan played the American tour for four years. His top players? For ball striking, Tom Weiskopf. For accuracy, putting a good score on a card, Allen Doyle.

Looks 14 handicap, funniest swing you saw but he is awesome. Top money winner last year.

John Morgan is the only European to win his card at the American qualifying school. When finally he lost it he decided to come home to play the European Seniors Tour. He says the Tour struggles to attract the crowds and also the TV coverage but he thinks that will change.

"The standard is improving. But last year I was 10th in the order of merit and next year I will be trying harder than ever to win. That is what it is about, " he added.

"I am just the luckiest person on this earth. I have been in the right place at the right time. I have had the best of everything and I fully appreciate it."

CAPTION(S):

HOME AGAIN: Merseyside's John Morgan will be playing the European Senior Circuit
COPYRIGHT 2001 MGN Ltd.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2001
Words:732
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