Morgan grows; now playing with the big girls

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FLEMING ISLAND - Alyzabeth Morgan is five years older, a bit taller, a bit more muscular and donning a set of teenager braces on her teeth. Normal growing pains for one of the best, up and coming 13 year old golfers in Clay County, but not deterring her from continuing her meteoric ascent as one of the best young golfers in America.

“Being an elite golfer at such a young age is certainly a good way to build confidence,” said Eagle Harbor teaching pro Brian Kipnis, also director of player development. “We’ve been together for about three years. I’m fortunate to be able to work with her. She is about to open up a new chapter in her golf life.”

Morgan, a rising eighth grader at Orange Park Junior High, sits in number two position on the Elite Tour Girls 13-18 ranks for the North Florida Junior Golf Foundation.

In 2015, Morgan, now 13, finished 18th at the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation World Championships with a 118 (10-over) total (37, 40, 41 rounds of nine holes) with winner Chloe Kovelesky of Boca Raton winning the title with a 101 (minus 7) score.

Since that first taste of international competition, Morgan has pushed ahead to become one of the top 13 years nationwide with a 78, 77 two round finish just two weeks ago at the World Golf Village for a third place finish by a difference of one stroke for second and two for first. In March, Morgan finished third again, but with a 162 two-round finish with rounds of 81, 81.

On Sun., May 17, Morgan upped the ante with a one stroke better 76 on the same Slammer and Squire course to lead her North Florida golf team to a win in the inaugural Florida Coast Ryder Cup, a two-day event also at Slammer and Squire. Morgan’s North Florida Junior Golf Team defeated Gold Coast Junior Golf 21.5 to 18.5. Morgan has an 18-hole best score of 73 in a tournament at her home course; Eagle Harbor, on January 26, in a second place finish in the Elite Girls division at the NFJG Harbor Challenge.

For Morgan, improvement has steadily come with a fitness regimen that keeps her golf game ready to take on the growing spurts of being a teenage. According to the BlueGolf stats page for Morgan, she has earned 33 first place tournament finishes, 30 second place finishes and 14 third place finishes in 102 tournaments.

“I started a fitness gym routine this year which I never had before,” said Morgan, who was hitting impressive drives at Eagle Harbor on Thursday with Kipnis in preparation for a two-day tournament at Slammer and Squire at the World Golf Village. “I’ve grown to about five foot since the last time we talked (at age eight).”

Morgan’s two-round 78-77 finish last week at Slammer and Squire has put her mental approach to a different target.

“She has said to me that she has enough trophies, now she wants to get into the low 70s for her scores,” said dad Ford Morgan. “She is getting some custom clubs to match her new growing and strength.”

Kipnis noted Morgan’s game has always been strong on the second and third shots, but now she has to capitalize on her driving to stay with the older competitors she will face as a 13 year old in the 13-18 groups.

“She had a fantastic short game when I first saw her,” said Kipnis. “With her, she had always lacked a little bit of distance. There was more strategy involved to get her to shoot the scores she is hitting now with minimum distance off the tee.”

Another aspect of Morgan’s next phase of development, said Kipnis, are some new clubs.

“She has custom clubs coming in the mail designed for her size and swing and that will be a big factor in her moving from a high 70s score to low 70s,” said Kipnis.

Morgan concurred that her new fitness regime will help her long game; driving.

Kipnis commented on Morgan’s mental preparation for facing stiffer competition, but felt confidence of her ability to take on the better players.

“Strategy is a key to mental tenacity and Alyzabeth has never been one to dwell on bogies and double bogies,” said Kipnis. “We’ve learned to be okay with bogies, but to be ready to move forward from them. I can’t tell most times as she walks off a green if she bogied or birdied. She is already thinking of the next hole.”

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