Channeling his energy: Veteran eyes career in golf

By Al TaysMarch 14, 2015, 8:00 am

The way Angel Morales Jr. sees it, watching Golf Channel saved his life.

In July 2014 Morales was one of thousands of former veterans struggling to cope with becoming a civilian. His whole life had revolved around the military. His relatives had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When he had turned 19, “It was my turn.”

For most of the next two decades, he served in the Army. He was part of Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and was stationed in Kosovo after 9/11. But a knee injury ended his military career. “The Army told me ‘You have to go,’” he said.

The knee was probably the least of his wounds. “I got scars and some injuries,” he said, “but my bigger injuries were the mental stuff, the friends that I lost.”

Civilian life was a mystery to Morales. He tried to go to school, “but I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t focus.” He couldn’t deal with his own family. A sister took out a restraining order against him.

Chat on airplane led to founding of vets' group

Feeling suicidal, Morales checked himself into a VA hospital, but returned to his downward spiral after being released. He had no job prospects and was abusing his pain medication. Thoughts of suicide were never far from his mind.

Watching golf on TV was one of the few things that gave him pleasure. On July 4, 2014, while watching “Morning Drive” in his Milwaukee home, Morales saw host Gary Williams interviewing Tom Underdown about his Fairways for Warriors organization.

“I saw Tom and it was like a light turned on,” Morales said. “He was saying how there was a place you can go, play golf, not just play golf but there’s a family there – you know, they take care of each other. And I said, ‘I need that.’”

He packed everything he could cram into his 2010 Toyota Corolla. What he couldn’t fit, he gave away to fellow veterans. A friend from high school offered him an affordable place to live near Orlando.

“The doors began to open,” he said. “I got here literally in a week. The first person I called was Tom. I explained my situation. He said ‘Come on down this weekend.’ We started playing golf, and my life has completely turned around.”

Like all of the Fairways for Warriors members, Morales can cite the Department of Veterans Affairs statistic on suicides by veterans – 22 per day. “I [would have been] one of them,” he said. “But through the Golf Channel, through Tom, through the camaraderie that we have with the other soldiers I was able to get out of that list.

“Since I’ve been here, the pain medications, I don’t abuse those, I’m clean from that; [I’m] alcohol-free, once in a while a glass of wine, but nothing like it used to be. I’m focused, I’m going to school, I just recently put in an application to work with Marriott Grande Vista.”

Morales is currently attending the Core Golf Academy at Orange County National, training to become a golf pro. The formal instruction he’s receiving is a far cry from his origins in the game.

Veterans group seeks to build golf course

Growing up in Puerto Rico, he lived in an area where there was only one course, and it was private. But the game fascinated him. He would press his face against the fence, watching the rich members swat these little white balls. “Sometimes they threw the balls over the fence and I kept them,” he said. He built his own mini-course in his backyard. “I cut the grass, I put a hole,” he said. He wasn’t able to pursue the game, further, though. “They didn’t have any golf programs in the school there,” he said. “It was only baseball.”

In the Army, he could use real equipment. “The first day I went out I chipped one ball in the hole and I was hooked for life,” he said. “I went and bought clubs, I got shoes, clothes, everything.”

Now Morales wants to combine his two loves – golf and his fellow veterans.

“I see the soldiers that come to Fairways for Warriors - triple amputees, double amputees, one of our guys is blind. I see them, I see hope. So now I’m committed to help – whatever it takes.

“My mission is to work [at the Warrior Golf Club] and get those [suicide] numbers down.” 

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 22, 2018, 5:30 pm

Tiger Woods held sole possession of the lead Sunday afternoon, but settled with an even-par 71 and finished three shots behind the champion.

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'Hungover' Pepperell improbably in mix after 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eddie Pepperell’s 11:40 a.m. tee time on Sunday at The Open was a tad early, and not just because the Englishman was heading out more than three hours before the leaders.

Following a third-round 71 that dropped him eight strokes off the lead, Pepperell did what many golfers do after a less-than-stellar round – he drank.

“Honestly, I was a little hungover. I won't lie. I had too much to drink last night,” said Pepperell, who said he went to bed on Friday at around 11:30 p.m. “I was so frustrated yesterday, that today was really, I wouldn't say a write-off, but I didn't feel I was in the golf tournament. Whether I shot 69 or 73 today, it wouldn't have been heartbreaking.”

Pepperell was much closer to the former on Sunday, posting a round-of-the-day 67 to move to within one stroke of the lead held by multiple players as the leaders made the turn.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Pepperell had just a single bogey on a blustery day at Carnoustie and closed his round with birdies at Nos. 14 and 17. It was one of just four rounds in the 60s on a course that had become increasingly difficult with each gust.

With six players tied for the lead at 6 under par, including defending champion Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Pepperell planned to wait and see how the afternoon progressed.

“The only hope I have is that it's Carnoustie, and the last three, four holes, even though they're downwind, still anything can happen with obviously pressure and all that sort of stuff out here,” he said. “So I'll have to hang around.”

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Pros melting down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 3:42 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

His fellow pros have been watching and tweeting like your average fans.

We're compiling their missives below:

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2018, 11:00 am

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

7AM-3PM (Watch): Jordan Spieth fired 65 to move into a three-way share of the 54-hole lead, while Tiger Woods (66) played his way into contention. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler and Thorbjorn Olesen.

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.