Golf: Welsh high-flier Becky Morgan is miles ahead of the rest
SHE’S a golfing Michael Palin using trains, planes and automobiles in her quest to be a Tour de force both sides of the Atlantic.
In fact Becky Morgan has gone “Pole to Pole”, completed a “Full Circle” and thrown in “Around the World in 80 Days” during a globetrotting 2011 taking in 17 countries and close to 250,000 air miles.
Though with US$2.25million LPGA Tour winnings and a house in swish West Palm Beach, Florida, the last place you would expect Becky to be this week is a potentially wet and windy Scotland.
After spending the last fortnight in Hawaii and Mobile, Alabama, the 37-year-old is in North Berwick for the Scottish Open having already clocked up more flight time in 2012 than an overworked Boeing 747.
For Morgan just getting to Archerfield Links this week was something of a travelling feat, flying from Alabama to London and staying overnight with twin sister Rachel, in Reading, before driving the 410 miles to East Lothian.
But for someone whose air miles last year equates to jetting from London to Sydney and back 12 times, it’s all part and parcel of being a golf professional chasing pay-days across the globe. But why put yourself through such a gruelling travelling regime with the riches of the LPGA Tour slap bang on her doorstep?
It seems the previously money-laden world of professional golf is suffering from the global recession like everyone else – but not that you would notice it in the men’s game.
“I’m coming back more often to the European Tour because we’re not getting as many tournaments as we have had in the States,” said Morgan before carding a two-over-par 74 yesterday. “in 2011 I probably did half and half and I’m coming over here to Europe to fill in weeks when we haven’t got tournaments in the US.
“if I just stayed in America these days I would only be playing about 16 events a year and I still have full playing rights on the LPGA.
“we were losing events year on year and it was totally to do with the global recession. we have a new commissioner in the States and he’s beginning to turn things around over there.
“the men’s tour is unaffected and thriving but the LPGA suffered but it is beginning to get a bit better. As a result I’m enjoying mixing and matching between the two tours.
“Playing golf is what I do best and what I enjoy doing. It’s a job most people would kill for, so I count myself lucky and try to make the most of it.”
Commuting to the Ladies European Tour does have its financial rewards as Morgan closes in on 500,000 in winnings this side of the Pond, though the cost of air travel for someone who treats the Atlantic like others would the M4, does considerably eat into that.
“in 2010 I worked out I clocked up 200,000 air miles and easily exceeded that last year,” added the geography graduate from North Carolina University.
“I played all over Europe and went to India, Dubai, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China just to name a few.
“Golf courses in Asia aren’t my favourite and I would much rather play on the courses in Europe and America as I much more used to them. I did well in Europe last season because I was getting used to be back playing in those conditions.
“being in Hawaii and in the high-80s a couple of weeks ago and then Alabama last weekend was very hot, the British weather is something I’ve grown up with, so it’s not so much of a shock coming back this week.
“I live in Port St Lucie, in West Palm Beach and travelling around Florida is seems every golfer in the world lives there.”
Morgan herself has been a resident in the Sunshine State since turning professional in 2000 after a glittering career in the amateur ranks over here that included two Curtis Cup caps. she travelled across to the States when budding Welsh amateur golfers learning their craft on the US College circuit, was almost unheard of.
“At the time you only has St Andrews and Stirling Universities as realistic options if you wanted to combine golf and studying in Britain and I just felt they weren’t for me,” added Morgan. “I knew a few acquaintances who has been through the US College system, so I started looking into the possibilities of a scholarship.
“there were a few offers but eventually I settled on North Carolina and it proved to be a great choice.
“I know my parents worried because I was quite a shy girl but North Carolina is a friendly place and I think I settled down more quickly than anyone, including myself, thought I would.
“As far as my golf game was concerned, America was a fantastic learning experience. the collegiate circuit is so competitive and you have to be on your game all the time.
“there are just so many good players and everyone is hungry for success.
“I know most players who come through the amateur ranks and reach a high level just naturally aspire to turn pro, but I wasn’t totally sure that was the right thing for me to do.
“when I did I was lucky enough to take a little bit of pressure off myself by earning opportunities to play on both tours.
“the fact I started so well in America probably shaped my whole career.
“if I hadn’t achieved any results early on, I would more than likely returned home to play more on the European Tour.
“Home will always be Wales and I used to come back every two or three months to see my family and friends, now it’s a bit more often than that.
“But I don’t have any plans to move my base from the USA. the weather in Florida makes a huge difference.”
Despite her rich pickings in the States, Morgan has yet to win an LPGA event with tied second in the 2002 ShopRite Classic her best finish to date.
Though it was her runners-up spot in January’s New South Wales Open, in Sydney, that attracted headlines across the golfing world when Morgan, whose family reside in Ross-on-Wye, was beaten to the title by 14-year-old wonder-kid, New Zealander Lydia Ko.
“when I was 14, I was playing off a 15-handicap and it was amazing to see this girl in the professional game winning events,” added Morgan.
“I was only thinking about this recently as I’m playing an event in Atlantic City later this month and the pre-tournament party is in a casino and only over-21s can go.
“I’m trying to figure out who will be able to go with me as I’m playing with girls on the LPGA Tour nowadays that I’m literally old enough to be their mother.
“I don’t feel that old and it’s slightly worrying. there such an explosion of Asian players who have pushed the standard up as they are so dedicated and such good players.
“I think most Americans would love it if their players were dominating but there’s more and more Asian players coming over than they are all great players. it makes it so much harder on the rest of us to lift our game to new heights, but that is the challenge.”
It’s a challenge Morgan is relishing ahead of playing in Turkey next week. And if trophies were decided by air-miles, the Welsh pro would be right up there in the top flight with Jack Nicklaus as a multiple Major winner.