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Beating The Rap
Farrell Evans
November 15, 2004
Before he emerged as the Tour's first hip-hop golfer, John Morgan had to overcome a lot more than dirty looks
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November 15, 2004

Beating The Rap

Before he emerged as the Tour's first hip-hop golfer, John Morgan had to overcome a lot more than dirty looks

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One man's breath of fresh air, however, can be another's unwelcome gust. During his rookie season, in 2003, Morgan caught the unwelcome attention of his peers with several Tour faux pas, such as attempting to chat up a less-than-chummy Tiger Woods in a locker room and perpetrating a starry-eyed-fan-like visitation on Ernie Els while the Big Easy was out to dinner. Moreover, Morgan spent most of the season with his normally brown hair dyed a vibrant shade of blue. Originally he had colored it after losing a bet and stopped dyeing it only when he discovered that doing so was making his hair fall out. "I like doing things differently," says Morgan.

He always has. As an amateur, Morgan incurred the wrath of the English Golf Union by performing Happy Gilmore routines for his teammates on the practice range. Later, after he'd played his way onto England's Sherry Cup team, he showed up drunk for an official dinner in Spain in 2000. "I don't think I was the kind of person that they wanted representing English amateur golf," says Morgan.

His irreverence and rebellion have their roots in his childhood. He has dyslexia, a learning disorder that impairs his ability to comprehend written words, which caused him to struggle in school and feel as if he never quite fit in. "I was bullied all the way through school," Morgan says, "so I became sort of a class clown."

Dyslexia wasn't Morgan's only hurdle. In 1998 he discovered that he also had epilepsy. As so often happens for epileptics, Morgan found out about his affliction in the most horrifying way--by having a grand mal seizure. During those two minutes of violent convulsions, he bit off part of his tongue, cracked two ribs and lost consciousness.

"I woke up in the hospital, and my mom was standing over me," Morgan says. "I couldn't remember a damn thing." In the aftermath he slipped into a deep depression, losing confidence and his desire to play golf. "It rocked his world for a long time," says Morgan's mother, Sue. "But he's accustomed to challenges, and his love of golf really kept him going."

So did daily doses of Lamictal, a medication that helps control epilepsy. The only problem was that Lamictal also gave Morgan migraines. The pain and distraction of those headaches were part of the reason he decided to stop taking the medication in June.

That decision seemed to be a good one-- Morgan got hot in July, finishing second at the John Deere and 13th at the B.C. Open. His success earned him a lot of TV time, and some people loved his emotional play, which includes plenty of fist-pumping and his new-school style. Many traditionalists, however--especially those who frequent online golf chat rooms--reacted as if Morgan were hacking at the foundations of society.

Morgan swears that none of his actions are done to make a statement--social, fashion or otherwise. He's simply being himself.

"are we in Reno yet?" Those were the first words Morgan said when he came to. An ambulance had met Flight 769 on the tarmac and then rushed Morgan to a hospital; it took him more than 45 minutes to regain his senses. Goyette, who had accompanied Morgan to the hospital, told him, "No, we never left Dallas."

Unlike this incident, most of Morgan's seizures come and go as quickly as the fast whipping action of his golf swing. Sue calls them "vacant moments"--abnormally synchronized electrical discharges in the brain--when he drifts away for a spell. Morgan doesn't even want to think about them. "I like to concentrate on hitting golf shots, not the neurology of my brain," he says.

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