Junior star Tommy Morrison is already 6-foot-8. But he stands out for much more than just his height

August 21, 2019

Standing tall — really tall — on the tee at Keney Park Golf Course, in Hartford, Conn., on a recent Tuesday morning, 14-year-old Tommy Morrison grabbed his driver and stepped in to take a whack on the 330-yard, par-4 10th hole. With a swift lash, the Texas teen launched a high, soft fade that seemed to climb to the heavens before eventually nestling pin-high, 20 feet from the hole.

“I think everyone when they go to see a guy like Tommy at 6-foot-8 playing golf, they’re expecting to see something awkward. Instead, you see a beautiful golf swing like Ernie Els,” said Bernie Najar, Tommy’s coach.

That’s right, 6-8, and more than likely still growing.

“You see effortless power instead of a kid thrashing at it, hoping to hit it far,” Najar continues. “Nobody’s really seen his full power yet — it’s gonna come.”

That is Morrison’s appeal: huge talent, limitless potential. The ninth-grader at Hebron High School, just north of Dallas, has a swing that has golf coaches at major college programs foaming at the mouths, powered by a frame that has four inches on Dustin Johnson’s.

“Watch this,” his mother, Alison, said as Tommy stepped to the 11th tee. She was following her son in the first round of the PGA Junior Championships. “He’s gonna cut the corner.” Mother knows best: Tommy ripped a towering 300-plus-yard bomb over the trees on the dogleg-left par-5 to set up a short-iron approach.

What is most exceptional about her son, Alison says, is neither his stature nor his booming drives. It is his outsized maturity. A mother of three, she’s known from the very beginning that Tommy was different.

“I’d put him in the crib and he’d want the door shut and see me in the morning,” she said. “What babies do that? He does that. He’s been like that since day one. He’s always been self-sufficient. He’s always had this incredible drive.”

It not hard to understand where that spirit comes from.

Tommy Morrison with a young aspiring golfer.
Tommy Morrison with a young aspiring golfer.
Courtesy of Alison Morrison

Tommy was born with a serious congenital heart condition, one that required him to have surgery at just two-and-a-half weeks. Despite afflicting him at such a young age, the illness was and is, according to those close to him, a tremendously formative experience. He’s humble yet candid, earnest, determined. Altruistic, too.

After seeing players like Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas heavily invested in charitable endeavors, Tommy figured he could similarly use his golf talents for a good cause. Two years ago, he committed to raising money from friends and family for the hospital that saved his life, Mount Sinai in New York City. He donated $15,000.

“It felt good just to give back and do something that the guys I look up to did,” he says.

Says Najar, Tommy’s Maryland-based coach: “He had to fight before he even knew what that meant. When you’ve had to deal with what he had to deal with when he first came into the world, somewhere deep down that builds a strength and purpose and ability to handle adversity that I think has served him well.”

His rise on the course has been equally precipitous. In 2017, Morrison won the boys-12 division at the U.S. Kids World Championship tournament at Pinehurst. That was the moment it all flipped for Alison and her family: “We just kind of knew, OK, he’s got something.” Earlier this summer Tommy finished third at the AJGA’s Under Armor Jordan Spieth Championship, at Trinity Forest, a Dallas-area PGA Tour venue.

In the last two years, he’s grown a staggering 18 inches — and added 15 miles per hour to his swing speed. He committed to Duke, then decommitted a year later after realizing he didn’t want to decide his future six years in advance. Earlier this year, course designer Dana Fry spotted Tommy at an amateur event and invited him to play with Ben Crenshaw. Tommy asked Crenshaw, renowned for his putting prowess, to critique his stroke. Gentle Ben’s advice?

“Don’t change a thing.”

Tommy acknowledges it would be easy to look ahead — and sometimes he does. Colleges are already fawning over him, with Oklahoma State, Texas and Duke the frontrunners. After that, he says, a PGA Tour career would be “an honor.”

He’s wise enough to know that there will be ups and downs between now and then, assuming then comes at all.

“The good thing about golf is whether the week goes good or the week goes poorly, there’s always next week,” he said. “Just staying in the present is something that I’ve worked on with my coaches, from small little things like walking up to the ball after a tee shot, not worrying about little things like where’s the pin location on the next hole or what [my opponent is] doing.”

On this Tuesday in Hartford, Tommy double-bogeyed the 1st hole after his tee shot landed near two trees he couldn’t thread his next shot between. He had to take an unplayable but rallied for three birdies on the front to get the round back on track, before signing for an even-par 70. It wasn’t his week, though. The next day, plagued by bad weather and a few mishaps, he shot a 73 to miss the cut.

For a 14-year-old just beginning to find himself, a few growing pains are all part of the journey.

Tommy knows that better than most.

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