Unlikely dream run leads to PGA Tour berth for local club pro

Tom Morton won the 2017 Northern California PGA Match Play Championship last week at Pebble Beach. With the win, he qualified for the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship this August in Reno.
Tom Morton won the 2017 Northern California PGA Match Play Championship last week at Pebble Beach. With the win, he qualified for the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship this August in Reno. PGA Northern California Section

Tom Morton is arguably the most sought-after and decorated golf instructor and club fitter in Sacramento.

It’s a great gig, but it’s not what he dreamed about doing when he was a kid growing up in Arden Park. He wanted to play on the PGA Tour.

Morton last week had a stretch he’ll never forget. He won six matches over four courses and three days to capture the NCPGA Match Play Championship and a berth in the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship.

In Reno this August, he will realize a dream he thought had passed him by.

“I was just talking to my dad about having never qualified for a USGA event was one of the biggest disappointments in my career,” Morton said. “I missed by one stroke a number of times. I think this will right that feeling.”

It would be an understatement to say Morton’s accomplishment against the best club pros in the Northern California PGA Section was unlikely. He had played four rounds in 2017, one being the match-play qualifying round in which he was using a new set of Ping clubs for the first time. He didn’t play a tournament in 2016 and had never advanced beyond the NCPGA quarterfinals. He began his march the day after the Haggin Oaks Golf Expo, where he worked sun up to sun down for three days as Haggin’s director of player development. He was 42.

But he had several things on his side, like karma, low expectations and a set of courses that favored precision over power.

He won his first match at Yolo Fliers on May 1 with a birdie on the 22nd hole after being 1 down on No. 18. After he won his second match later that day, and as he prepared to leave for Pasatiempo for the next day’s matches, two unusual things happened.

“My 9-year-old son – I have two boys – said, ‘Dad, you’re going to win,’ ” Morton said. “It’s not like he knew what I was playing in or had said anything like before.”

And as he was packing, he thought to throw in some Ping gear “just in case I win and there’s pictures. That’s not something I would ever think to do.”

Morton won both matches at Pasatiempo and his semifinal match the next morning at Cypress Point. He faced off against No. 1 seed David Solomon of Ruby Hill Golf Club (Pleasanton) that afternoon at Pebble Beach.

“For whatever reason, I was more calm during those three days than I ever have been in my life,” Morton said. “I can’t really explain that. The only time I felt my heart rate get kind of high, I was 3 up with three to play in middle of 16th fairway at Pebble. I hit it left of the green and lost the hole.”

He regrouped to hit a quality tee shot on the par-3 No. 17, win the hole and start living the dream.

College men’s postseason

Big Sky Conference champion Sacramento State, led by Big Sky Player of the Year Aaron Beverly and Big Sky Coach of the Year Kamden Brakel, plays next week in the NCAA Division I championship.

The Hornets are seeded No. 12 among 13 teams in the Stanford regional. The low five teams and individual not on one of those teams will advance to the finals.

Cameron Champ (Texas A&M), Corey Pereira (Washington) and Hunter Rappleye (Saint Mary’s) are players with local ties who figure to be NCAA postseason factors.

William Jessup earned an at-large berth into next week’s the NAIA championship. Jessup’s Johnnie Greco was the Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Tim Hovancsek the conference Coach of the Year.

High school boys postseason

The Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs commenced Monday. Here are the teams moving on to next week’s Masters in Stockton with individual highlights:

Division I North at Rancho Solano

Teams: Davis, Jesuit, Oak Ridge, Vacaville.

Individual highlights: Jesuit’s Chase Sienkiewicz and Rocklin’s Grant Leppek were co-medalists at 69. Davis’ Jackson Masiel (70) and Griffin Long (71) also broke par.

Division II at Empire Ranch

Teams: Ponderosa, Whitney.

Individual highlights: Del Campo’s Bryce Kvick (68) was the medalist. Ponderosa’s Joe Fowler and Owen Murphy, Whitney’s Sam Sommerhauser and Roseville’s Jake Littlejohn shared second place at 71. Kennedy’s Jonathan Tanihana shot a 72.

Division III at Yolo Fliers

Teams: Vista del Lago, Rio Americano.

Individual highlights: Rio’s Matthew Sutherland (71) was the medalist. River Valley’s Trey Davis (72) was second, followed by Vista del Lago’s Caden Kallas, River Valley’s Riley Bell and Lathrop’s Christian Guzman at 73.

Division IV at Auburn Valley

Teams: Placer, Union Mine.

Individual highlights: Cordova’s Zane Choudhry and Momin Choudhry were co-medalists at 75.

River Oaks closed

River Oaks in Nicolaus is closed.

The course’s website says until further notice because of damage caused by winter flooding. Its phone number is no longer in service and its employees have been let go.

The course was initially private and called Rio La Paz when it opened in 2000.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak