Paula Morton stood 60 yards from the 18th pin at the famed Dunes Golf & Beach Club with a sand wedge in her hand and the realization that her dream of being crowned World Champion at the PGA TOUR Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship was potentially slipping away.
Morton, who had just dumped her third shot in the water, took a drop in the rough on a downhill lie and told herself to get the ball close. She did even better, delivering the most dramatic shot in the 25-year history of the World Amateur.
The Greenbrier, Tenn., resident landed the ball on the front of the green, clearing the hazard with ease, and watched it roll into the cup, prompting her to throw her arms in the air and scream with delight. The magical shot gave Morton a gross score of 91 and a net 67, good enough for a one stroke victory over Percy Hayes of Granbury, Texas who shot a gross 80 and a net 68.
“I had a pretty good lie, but I still had all that wonderful water in front of me, so I said, ‘Just don’t leave it short,'” an ebullient Morton said. “There must have been angels on my hands, because next thing I know, that thing went in.”
Morton got two strokes on the 18th but when she hooked a seven iron into the water double bogey appeared to best case scenario. Morton’s spirits were buoyed by the cushion her handicap provided and she harkened back to a tip she received from Dave Pelz the Sunday before the tournament.
“(Dave Pelz) had done some training at Grande Dunes, so I went over there and worked a little bit,” Morton said. “Afterwards he met with us and told us some stuff we can do (for our short game) and it was real important. (He said), ‘You need to get within 6 feet’ and if you don’t make it within six feet you pay him $50 and if you make it he pays you $50. I’m going to send him a bill this week for the $50 he owes me!”
Morton, the second consecutive woman to be crowned world champion and the fourth overall, is no stranger to making clutch shots at the World Amateur. In 2004, she won a condo at Barefoot Resort in a putting contest, draining a 10-footer to clinch the prize.
Winning the villa cost Morton her amateur status for a year, a small price to pay for a roof over her head when she makes regular trips to the area. Prior to winning the World Championship, Morton’s name was already a familiar one to some local golfers.
“If I go out and play and they put me with a group of guys, I hear them say, ‘Paula Morton, where did I hear that name?’ Then they say, ‘Oh yes, you won the Centex Homes giveaway.'”
Now Morton will have a World Championship trophy to place on the mantle of her Myrtle Beach home and people will have heard about that as well.
J.P. Holt of Cleveland, Tenn., Dennis Monahan of Largo, Fla., Keith Gehlman of Johnstown, Pa., Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Kent, and Robert Reynolds of Arab, Ala., all shot a net 69 to finish tied for 3rd.
The World Championship Playoff field consisted of the 41 golfers who won their flights at the PGA TOUR Superstore World Amateur Handicap Championship, a 72-hole event that annually attracts more than 3,600 golfers from all 50 states and more than 30 foreign countries to the Grand Strand.