Tara Morris hasn’t felt her heart beat like it did on Thursday at the Ranch Country Club in quite some time. The PGA Professional from the Country Club at Castle Pines hasn’t had time to put herself in that position very often with her busy work schedule. Things all changed on Thursday though as the former Cactus and Symetra Tour player competed her way into contention during the final round of the Colorado PGA Women’s Championship and claimed victory on the first hole of a sudden death playoff.
Morris started the day one-shot behind two-time defending champion Alexandra Braga after posting a 68 on Wednesday. Braga, a PGA Assistant Professional at Denver Country Club, closed out her first round with three straight birdies to post a four-under-par 67. Morris got off to a bad start for the second day in a row, opening bogey-bogey. She was able to string together four birdies the rest of the day to go with another bogey at the par-3 17th hole.
“Both days I had a bad start,” notes Morris, a native of Dodge City, Kan. “I was just trying to battle back from that all-day long and just trying to get back to even-par if I could. Eventually, I made enough birdies that it worked out for me!”
It took a lot for Morris to get back into the mix on Thursday. Braga opened with a two-under-par 33 to build a three-stroke lead at the turn. A bogey at the par-4 10th brought Morris within two-shots and after a back-and-forth battle on the back nine, the pair came to the 18th tee with Braga holding a one shot lead.
Morris’s tee shot at the uphill par-4 18th hole came up just short of a fairway bunker leaving her a difficult second shot. Braga’s tee shot found the left rough and with it, tree trouble on her approach.
Morris was able to play her approach to the front apron while Braga could only chip out, leaving herself about sixty yards for her third shot. Braga’s third came up short of the green and she missed her attempt at par.
Morris was able to play her third shot just short of the flag and made a seemingly routine par. Left with a downhill right to left putt, Braga was able to get her bogey putt to sneak in sending the pair to a playoff.
Starting the playoff, both players hit their tee shots to the fairway at the downhill par-4 10th hole with Braga having a twenty yard advantage off the tee. Braga seemed to grab the momentum as they both played solid shots onto the green. Braga was left with the easier of the two putts, 12 feet uphill while Morris had a slick eight foot putt straight down the hill.
Braga gave her birdie putt a roll but barely missed, leaving the ball just short and right of the hole before tapping in for par. Morris took her time over the putt, knowing it was quick.
“I knew I had a chance to win the tournament right then and I knew it was a really fast putt so my speed had to be really, really good,” she notes. “And luckily, it was and the birdie putt ended up falling into the back of the hole!”
Speed wasn’t the only thing Morris faced over that putt. Not having been in contention in years, Morris admitted her heart was racing. “The last time I felt my heart beat like that was during qualifying for the US Amateur. There were 15 or 16 us of playing in a playoff in Oregon and there were people lining the fairway. It was a hole that I had bogeyed all week and I was incredibly nervous. I ended up making the birdie and getting in. I haven’t felt this heart beat since then,” she said with a laugh.
Morris came into the week not expecting much but knew that she had the potential to play well. “I didn’t have big expectations coming into this event. I just wanted to come out and play and see all of the ladies in the Section. I haven’t played much but when I have, I’ve played pretty well,” she says. “My husband and I have a running joke about birdie-turkeys (making three birdies in a row). I’ve done that four times this summer and did it yesterday with a birdie-eagle-birdie. I asked him if that counted last night since we get a prize for a birdie-turkey!”
It’s fair to say that her prize on Thursday might outweigh her birdie-turkey prize. Morris took home a $1,000 first-place prize as this year was the first time the winning check for the event reached four digits. She will also represent the Colorado PGA at the 2019 PGA Women's Stroke Play Championship. The entry fee and travel for that event will be underwritten by the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation.
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