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Texas golfer Tommy Morrison takes the lead for the Longhorns in the first round

In Texas they actually get bigger.

Even if they didn't grow up in Texas.

That includes Maryland native and former Duke commit Tommy Morrison, a major potential star and golf prodigy if Longhorns coach John Fields ever saw one. And he has.

Morrison didn't arrive in the Lone Star state until his parents, James and Alison Morrison, moved their family of three to Dallas in 2019. That's three big boys, including Tommy, who competed fabulously at the races on a rainy Monday at UT Golf Club. The Texas sophomore shot a 4-under-par 67 to help the third-seeded Longhorns take the lead on the opening day of their three-day NCAA regional tournament, two shots ahead of Notre Dame at 11-under.

“It wasn't my best game. It's hard to stay in one zone for five hours. More like seven hours,” Morrison said of Monday’s three-hour rain break, during which he slept, ate barbecue and crawfish and played ping pong. “But I think I did a good job.”

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After two bogeys on holes Nos. 7 and 8 after erratic drives, Morrison raged with five birdies on the next six holes. In two of them he came within inches of the eagles. His newly introduced claw putting grip has stabilized that part of his game, and he is one of six golfers sharing the individual lead heading into Tuesday's second round.

“He could be the prototype of the new golfer in collegiate sports and then at the professional level,” Fields said. “He is developing into a great player. He is 1.90 meters tall, but he is a very good athlete. He has great hands and I think he's a new version of the Big Easy, which is the nickname of Ernie Els, who was 6 years old.” -3, almost 6-4. But this guy is stronger.

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Yes, Tommy Morrison is a big, strong guy, from his short blonde hair to his custom-made, size 17 Nike shoes. When he was in sixth grade, he was 6 feet 2 inches tall. He's now at least 6-9 and towers over his opponents and teammates, including UT's Christiaan Maas, the No. 23-ranked amateur in the world who is also his roommate. Morrison is No. 78.

Well, he's “6-9 and take a dipstick to see if there's anything more,” his mother joked. She dutifully walked all 18 holes that gray, humid Monday with Tommy's grandparents, Steve and Donna Skrenta, cheering Tommy on and generously handing out bottles of water and peanut butter snacks to everyone in the dozen-or-so-person gallery.

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James Morrison was unable to make the trip. He was at home in Frisco, attending to their youngest son Mac's middle school exams.

Oh, Mac is big too. He's already a 6-foot-1, 285-pound freshman at Trinity Christian Academy. He's a center in football, and Alison said, “He dreams of one day taking his turn at Texas.”

Their other son, Jack, is a 6-foot-2 sophomore golfer at Santa Clara University.

Apparently they get all their height genes from the 6-foot-10 James, a corporate immigration lawyer, and Tommy's 6-foot-10 grandfather, who bought him and Jack their first mini-golf clubs when they were three and four years old, and introduced her to the game at the Nissequogue Golf Club on Long Island. Tommy's great-grandfather “BB the Bomber” was a catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Mom is 1.75 meters tall and is a regional executive at a cosmetics brand company, but doesn't play golf. Neither does your husband. But she is a shrewd student of the game and follows Tommy's career closely.

“I just smile and support him,” she said. “That’s my main job.”

Coach: Morrison “has a different gear”

There's a lot to follow. Morrison isn't just a rising star in college. He was the first alternate at the local U.S. Open qualifier last week in Escondido, when he made six birdies but also three double bogeys and lost in a playoff to a golfer who holed out from 60 yards in the fairway.

Morrison has yet to win a college tournament. But he placed fourth at Western Intercollegiate this spring, sixth at Southern Highlands and has five individual finishes in the top 12. Even at 19, he is a big player with a big game and even bigger stature.

But he knows he doesn't have it all figured out. He still has a lot to learn about court knowledge, game management and his own game, which Longhorns top assistant Erik Henson describes as “effortless.”

“He’s very powerful and has a different gait, but he hits with so much control,” Henson said. “He has so much sensitivity for someone his size.”

He has friends in high places

Fields has seen many up-and-coming golf talent come from Austin, such as current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and former No. 1 and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth. Like Morrison, they cut their golf teeth in the Dallas zip code, and all three have played together at Royal Oaks and elsewhere.

Morrison also enjoys an occasional game of pickle ball with Scheffler. “No, I can’t beat him. He’s incredible,” Tommy said. “I probably can’t beat him much right now.”

Of course, the former No. 1 junior golfer in the class of 2023 hangs out with all kinds of royalty. He competed in a four-ball tournament with part-time golfer and full-time NFL analyst Tony Romo. Morrison counts among his swing coaches Jamie Mulligan of Long Beach, who works with LPGA dynamo Nelly Korda and PGA golfer Patrick Cantlay, and Corey Lundberg, considered one of the best young teachers in the game according to Golf Digest.

And one of Tommy's best friends is Arch Manning.

When they enrolled early a year ago, both skipped the rest of their prep years to become Longhorns early. And just this semester, Morrison and Manning both became Texas Cowboys. Maybe they'll even be allowed to fire the Smokey cannon at events, unless of course he and Arch are too busy.

“They’re great friends,” Alison said.

Neither accepts NIL deals as the two high-profile Longhorns prefer to focus on their sports and studies.

As good a golfer as he is, those who know Morrison insist he is an ever-improving person.

“He’s one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet,” Fields said.

Show balance on the track

But he is also a fighter, as his parents learned when he was born weighing 4.5 kilograms but with a congenital heart defect. Just days later, Tommy underwent corrective heart surgery to repair a leaky pulmonary valve and he still requires regular health checks.

“Tommy learned to fight before he even learned what fighting was,” Alison said. “It’s part of his DNA.”

This also applies to complete control of your emotions. He's so level-headed that he didn't even bat an eyelash after his back-to-back bogeys or celebrate after his streak of four straight birdies on the back nine on Monday.

While Arkansas' Matthis Lefevre slammed his club to the ground on one hole after failing to get out of a sand trap and cursed himself in his native French, Morrison calmly went about his business without so much as a punch. The front nine was rocky for him, burning the edge of the cup at least four or five times before routine action, but he never lost his composure.

“His eyes are always straight ahead,” Alison said. “They’re not falling off yet, but as they go, they’ll start to flow.”

Mom obviously knew best.

Hours later, he completed a special, if not spectacular, round of golf under rumbling skies, ending the day with six birdies.

Alison then said, “It’s flowing.”

On a large scale.

Anna Harden

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