Morgan competed often in regional tournaments, and seniors such as Orville Moody, Rives McBee and John Paul Cain encouraged him to try the Senior tour. After turning 50 on May 31, 1991, Morgan put his life savings on the line and hit the mini-tours and the Monday qualifiers on the Senior tour. That year he played his way into four Senior tour events, his best finish being a 19th at the Showdown Classic. "It was a very tough experience," he says. "You just had to stick your lip out and do it."
Morgan finally reached the Senior tour in 1992 by way of Q school and had flashes of brilliance. He shot a 63 in the first round of the 1992 GTE North Classic but followed with a 73 and a 76. "I got paired with Ray Floyd the last round and fiat choked," he says. Still, the experience gave him some perspective. "I told myself that it's not life and death out here on tour," he says. "Life and death is in the jungle. You make a mistake there and it's all over. You make a mistake on the golf course, you try to make a birdie on the next hole."
Because he never finished better than 57th on the money list in his first three seasons, and only the top 31 stay exempt, Morgan had to keep returning to Q school. Although he possessed a strong and accurate long game, he came up short around the greens. In 1994, with the goal of correcting this weakness, Morgan played mostly in the Senior satellite events, grooving his skills from 80 yards and in. When he once again emerged from the Q school for the '95 season, he was a different player.
His victory that year in Seattle capped a season in which he finished in the top 10 five times and won $423,756. That left him 27th on the money list and, finally, exempt. He was voted comeback player of the year by his peers and hasn't looked back since.
As one of six African-Americans on the Senior tour (and currently the most successful), Morgan is well aware of his debt to the pioneers of black golf. He calls the 74-year-old Charlie Sifford "my father" only half jokingly. Says Sifford, "Walt's a wonderful guy. I see a lot of me in him. He ain't going to break down, and he ain't afraid of nothing."
But while Sifford is often bitter about the treatment he has received from the golf establishment because of the color of his skin, Morgan, who came up in a different era, keeps any resentment he might feel kicked inside. "Sure, I've been stopped by security guards at the locker room door and gotten some funny looks even after showing them my player's badge," he says. "It can make you mad. But now I pay no attention. I'm here to play golf. If you let stuff like that bother you, you might as well go home."
Morgan is also quietly proud of his own place in the continuum of black golf. Three weeks ago, when he was told that Tiger Woods had won in Orlando, the news produced a genuine rise. "Did he really? I'm so happy," Morgan said, his face breaking into a broad smile. "You can just tell by the look in his eyes that that young man has absolutely no fear. I know his father was military and that had to rub off."
Pausing, Morgan said something similar to what Sifford had said about him. "When I look at Tiger, I see myself."
He wasn't talking about youth, money, the game or the swing. "He believes in himself," Morgan added. "That's all I've ever had."