Jay Simpson remembers clearly witnessing Jed Morgan break par for the first time. Morgan was 14 years of age and playing the family-owned Fairways Tavern Golf Club course at Hatton Vale 30 minutes west of Ipswich.
Eight years later, Morgan will make his major championship debut at this week’s storied US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, a world and 15,672 kilometres from where talent first saw possibility.
“There was a lightbulb effect at that point where he knew he could play the game,” says Simpson, PGA Professional at Meadowbrook Golf Club and the founder of First Swing Golf who is regularly reminded of finishing second to Morgan that day.
“He’d been knocking on the door, shooting even par or even a couple over for a long time and then one day everything clicked.
“He knew in himself that he could actually do it.”
It has taken eight years for Morgan to become an overnight sensation.
A star amateur who counts the NSW Junior State Championship, Queensland Boys Amateur, Singapore Junior Championship, NT Amateur and 2020 Australian Amateur among his conquests, Morgan burst into the consciousness of Australian golf at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in January.
His 11-stroke victory complete with fist pumps and raucous engagement with Royal Queensland galleries bursting with family and friends broke a record-winning margin held by major champions Greg Norman and Hale Irwin.
It also gave him a virtually unassailable lead on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit that would ultimately provide direct entry into the US Open field.
Many of our major champions come from humble beginnings and Morgan fits the mould.
The country upbringing and athletic prowess that made a career in rugby league a very real possibility gave the PGA Professionals he has worked with a great starting point from which to build.
“He had talent. He had a natural ability. His swing was fluent and he had the work ethic to go with it,” adds Simpson, who first met Morgan at Brookwater Golf and Country Club where Morgan would attend the Kookaburra Club clinics conducted by Simpson.
“I look at a nice solid set-up. If a player has got a very good set-up in terms of posture and stability, then you know he’s going to have a pretty good swing.
“He had the ability and flexibility to be able to put the golf club in the right places.
“The biggest thing that he lacked to start with was short game. He could hit the ball no problem – his ball-striking was mint – but he just had to learn to get around the golf course. He had to learn how to play.
“Once he honed those skills he was going to be unstoppable.”
Part of that education involved becoming familiar with bunker play, not an easy skill to practise at a golf course devoid of any sand traps.
Yet somehow even that learning curve was not too steep for Morgan.
“He’s always understood how it works, even without explaining,” Simpson adds.
“Even before he got into a bunker he’d been there before; it was as if in a past body he knew what golf was about and how to play it.”
With Simpson’s blessing, Morgan and his parents, Laurie and Julie, decided to move into Greater Brisbane with an eye to breaking into state junior teams.
He joined Gailes Golf Club and linked with Royal Queensland Golf Club Head PGA Professional Chris Gibson who guided the next phase of his development.
Amateur wins followed and he became entrenched in state teams run by Golf Queensland and the Queensland Academy of Sport, going through the 2018 Interstate Team Series undefeated.
It was his selection in state junior teams that first brought Morgan to the attention of Grant Field, his progression into the QAS squad bringing the pair together for the first time.
“He was just a really good athlete,” says Field, who took over as Morgan’s coach last August.
“He’s always been strong and athletic which makes it easy to work with.”
When Morgan rang “out of the blue” last year to ask whether Field would take over as his full-time coach, the man who has guided Cameron Smith to the top of world golf understood the areas where he thought he could help.
There was some short game work to tidy up and a miss left under pressure that Field thought he could eliminate but, more than anything, Field wanted to unlock Morgan’s personality on the golf course.
Despite Smith expressing afterwards his personal aversion to fist pumps, as Morgan built his lead at the Australian PGA Field continued to encourage his young charge to embrace the unique circumstance he found himself in.
“What we saw at the PGA was a combination of the situation but also being at home in front of friends and family,” adds Field, the 2021 PGA of Australia National High Performance Coach of the Year.
“You’re not going to see that most of the time. That was a little bit specific to that week and where he was and who he had around him. That’s not happening 51 other weeks of the year.”
Field certainly doesn’t expect to see many emotional outbursts at Brookline this week but rather the progression of a career still in its infancy.
He admits that there are elements to Morgan’s new-found fame the 22-year-old could have handled differently but that, like this week, they are lessons you can only learn through experience.
“It’s been a really good learning period for him,” Field said of the five months since Morgan claimed the Joe Kirkwood Cup.
“I just want him to keep getting better and more at ease at being in those types of fields.
“The more he turns up and feels like he belongs you’ll start to see the best version of Jed.”