SI Vault
Edited by Cameron Morfit
July 19, 1999
The Nike Tour's Rising StarGo-Go Gogel
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July 19, 1999


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Gil Morgan, 52, had four wins on the Senior tour by this time last season. This year he has none. What has gone wrong? Not much, according to the statistics. Here are Morgan's numbers and his rankings (in parentheses) for 1998 and this year.




Driving dist.

277.4 (8)

278.2 (3)

Driving ace.

74.3% (11)

74.5% (25)

Greens in reg.

73.5% (3)

70.5% (8)

Birdies per round

4.08 (3)

3.75 (5)

Putts per GIR

1.752 (5)

1.777 (13)

Puns per round

29.08 (5)

29.56 (42)

Scoring avg.

69.46 (2)

70.44 (4)

Birdie conv.

30.8 (7)

29.6% (8)

The Nike Tour's Rising Star
Go-Go Gogel

Matt Gogel is on the verge of a nervous breakthrough. Gogel, who along with Sean Murphy shares the bittersweet record for career victories on the Nike tour (six), has for two seasons been perfectly positioned to crack the top 15 on the Nike's year-end money list, thereby graduating to the PGA Tour. Each time something has gone freakishly wrong.

This year, having won twice, Gogel is poised to become the only man other than Chris Smith, in '97, to earn a battlefield promotion. (Players who win three times in a season go to the big Tour.) Failing that, Gogel, with $152,816, leads the money list by $46,000 over No. 2 Matthew Goggin and is absolutely certain to make the top 15. Really. "You can calculate what 15th on the money list will be," says Gogel, a 28-year-old Kansan with a self-taught swing. "I think the 15th guy this year will make $135,000, maybe $140,000. I've already received a lot of congratulations."

This kind of calculating got Gogel into trouble in '98. Heading into the season-ending Tour Championship in Mobile, Ala., he was 12th on the money list. He had an $8,000 lead on No. 15, Murphy, and thought he was home free. Then, the night before the tournament, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem added $50,000 to the purse, making Gogel's calculations moot.

During the competition, the impossible happened. Gogel shot a third-round 83 and tied for 42nd. Emlyn Aubrey, 13th on the money list, and Murphy tied for seventh and fourth, respectively, and passed Gogel. Bob Burns, No. 14, won the tournament and vaulted to No. 1. The real killer: Jimmy Green, No. 21, finished third and won $29,750, moving to 11th, bumping Gogel to 16th. "I could have taken care of it myself by playing better," Gogel says, "but some incredible things happened for me to finish out of the top 15."

At least it was over quickly. On July 13, 1997, six days before Gogel married Blair Lauritzen, he won the Nike Laurel Creek Classic to move to fourth on that year's money list. He seemed a lock for the Show, but over his next nine starts he missed seven cuts, then tied for 35th at the Tour Championship. He finished 19th in earnings. "Obviously, I was panicking," Gogel says.

With that in mind, Gogel, whose only taste of the Tour has been three U.S. Opens—his best finish was 51st at Shinnecock Hills in '95—is not panicking this week. He's picnicking. He and Blair, along with three other Nike players and their wives, have repaired to a lake in Minnesota to boat and ski and fish. Gogel, on pace to break Stewart Cink's single-season Nike earnings record ($251,699), knows he can't afford to start pressing; nor can he relax and think he has it made.

"If I get the battlefield promotion, I'll come back and play in the Nike Tour Championship," he says, allowing his thoughts to wander. "But that's hypothetical."

Milwaukee's Finest
Franco Makes Some Friends

Carlos Franco's long journey from his home in Asunci�n, Paraguay, to Wisconsin for the Greater Milwaukee Open was worth it on a couple of scores. For one, he won the tournament, shooting a 20-under-par 264. For another, he made a couple of friends for life. The 5,083-mile trip certainly ended better than it began. Franco flew without incident to Chicago but upon his arrival learned that his flight to Milwaukee had been canceled. Most pros would have rented a limo for the 90-minute drive north. Not Franco. He boarded a bus with 47 others.

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