Some say this is only the beginning for Collin Morikawa, an overnight sensation who won the hearts of America Sunday by winning the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Morikawa, who shined at La Cañada High before attending U.C. Berkeley, graduating with a bachelors degree in business administration, shot a six under par 64 to come from behind in just his second effort in competing in a golf major.
“I’m on cloud nine, I don’t know about you guys, but yeah, I’ve believed in myself since day one,” the 23-year-old told the media, finishing 13 under par for a two shot victory. “Any time you’re in the conversation of the greats, Jack, Rory, Tiger, no matter who it is, if you’re in that conversation, you’re doing something well. It doesn’t stop here. I’ve got a very good taste of what this is like, what a major championship is like.”
His only slip up came when lifting the famed Wanamaker Trophy, as the lid flipped off, Morikawa sheepishly grinning, laughing at the mishap. He also took home $1,980,000 in winnings for his efforts.
Watching it all unfold among the millions of television viewers was South Pasadena High golf coach Ed Smith, who witnessed Morakawa’s standout play as a teen. “He was head and shoulders above everybody else,” remembers Smith of the young player’s talent. “He knew he was the best player, but didn’t act that way. He respected the other players. I’m rooting for that guy all the way. He’s an awesome kid.”
South Pasadena High Athletic Director Anthony Chan said Morikawa was known as an “absolute class act” when he played for La Cañada. “What an amazing round of golf he had on Sunday, not to mention the amazing eagle on a tough course at TPC Harding. I think he brings a lot of excitement and buzz about golf in the local area and league. I hope that in these times there will be more interest in golf, and he brings a great energetic charisma to the sport. The Rio Hondo League has had strong male and female golfers over the years, but Collin has definitely cemented himself as one of the best to come out of the area in recent years. He’s a great ambassador of golf from our area, and I am excited to see more of what he will do on the green as well as off!”
To pull away from the field, Morikawa had a stroke of genius, belting the ball to within seven feet of the hole on the 294-yard par 4, 16thth hole before rolling in the putt for an eagle. At one point, seven players were tied for the lead at 10-under par late in Sunday’s round. In only his 29th start as a professional, he had the lowest final round by a champion at the PGA Championship in a quarter of a century.
“I was hoping for a really good bounce and got it,” said Morikawa about his heroics on 16. “I hit a really good putt, and now we’re here.”
He went out in front when he chipped in from 40-yards short of the 14th green and finished off the competition by driving the distance two holes later along the shores of Lake Merced.
Smith said Morikawa demonstrated the same cool and calmness exhibited in high school coming down the stretch of Sunday’s tournament with the world watching. “He is very focused, has a great mental approach to the game and doesn’t get rattled,” said the Tigers’ golf coach. “He has a great attitude. Those are the kind of kids you root for.”
Morikawa, who grew up playing at Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale, a nine-hole course with 10 greens and 36 tees designed by William P. Bell, started his professional PGA Tour career in 2019 with 22 straight made cuts. It marks the second longest streak after Tiger Woods with 25. At Cal, he was one of the top players in the country, named a first-team All-American four times. He currently resides in Las Vegas.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced a compressed a schedule for major with the next scheduled event, the US Open, slated for September 17 to 20, followed by the Masters slated from November 12 to 15. The British Open has been canceled.
In his brief professional career, Morikawa is already a three-time PGA Tour winner. “The California kid is the new star in the game of golf!” exclaimed CBS commentator Jim Nance the moment the young player sank the winning putt.
While his lone mistake may have been handling the trophy afterwards, it’s safe to say he’ll have plenty of other chances in the future to work out that assignment.
“I’m so excited, but it feels like this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Morikawa. “It’s amazing. To close it out in San Francisco, which is pretty much my second home, where I spent the last four years, is pretty special.”