Morgan answers WJGA call as state director

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WALLA WALLA - When the Washington Junior Golf Association determined that Walla Walla would be the site of its 35th annual state championship tournament, designating someone locally to serve as tournament director was a piece of cake.

Carol Morgan, who has been an active volunteer in the WJGA dating back to 1990 when her daughter Lindsay played in her first tournament as a 9-year-old, was ready, willing and, most important of all, able to take on the job. That's able as in qualified.

Not only does Carol know her away around the WJGA, she also possesses the expertise that can only be gained by actually performing in the role of a tournament director.

It was in 1992 when then-Walla Walla Country Club head professional Steve Stull and Gary Sirmon of First Savings Bank approached her about taking on the challenge of running a junior golf tournament at the club.

The inaugural First Savings Eastern Washington Junior Golf Invitational was held that summer under Morgan's watch. Now known as the Banner Bank Junior Invitational, the tournament was held for a 19th consecutive year earlier this month, with Morgan in charge each and every year.

Furthermore, when Washington State University decided to host the Women's Pac-10 Championships at the country club in 2002, the Cougars coaxed Morgan into running the tournament. And it didn't take that much coaxing, either, since by then Lindsay was one of the top players at rival University of Washington and would be participating in the tournament on her home course.

Two years later, it was WSU's turn to host the men's Pac-10 tourney. Partly because of the success of the women's tournament two years earlier, and partly because golf courses in the Spokane area aren't usually in top playing condition in April, the Cougars decided to return to Walla Walla and once again turned the operation over to Morgan.

That kind of a track record made it easy for WJGA officials to offer the tournament director job to Morgan for this week's 54-hole competition, which will showcase 252 of the state's top junior players who will range from 8-to-17 years of age.

It also made it easy for Carol to accept the job, although she suggests that this will probably be her last rodeo as far as major tournaments are concerned.

"I very much will continue to do Banner Bank," she said. "I absolutely adore doing it, because the kids are so nice and so delightful to be around for those two days, and so appreciative for what the country club and the bank do for them.

"But I am pretty sure this will be my last big tournament," she added. "The Cougars are hosting the women's Pac-10 next year at Palouse Ridge in Pullman, and the men in 2014, but I have no plans to be involved."

Palouse Ridge is a relatively new golf course in Pullman that didn't exist the last time the Cougars' turn to host the Pac-10 tournaments came around. But the spring weather conditions and course conditions in Pullman aren't that much different than Spokane.

"That's there issue, not mine," Morgan said.

Morgan called the Pac-10 tournaments "a huge leap" over her responsibilities as the annual junior tournament director. She doesn't expect this week's WJGA state event to be quite as imposing.

"The WJGA does a very fine job with this tournament," she said. "It is a pretty well-oiled machine."

That said, holding the tournament in Walla Walla does offer some unusual challenges.

"The two biggest being hotel rooms and the banquet," Morgan said.

"We don't have a hotel in this town that has 200-and-some rooms to give out," she said. "And finding a place to host 600-plus at a sit-down dinner, that was a challenge."

Instead, out-of-towners are being directed to seven different hotels "at different price levels," Morgan said. "And these hotels have been very generous in working with me on all the technicalities."

And the banquet, which is scheduled Wednesday evening following the first round of play, will be held in the community center building at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds.

"It's the only facility in town that can handle a group our size," Morgan said. "But unlike other places, where the banquet is held at a hotel that provides linens, tables and dishes, my banquet chair has had to do all of that. And it's a huge job.

"Terri Hanson is my banquet director, and she has done a whale of a job of getting it together," Morgan said.

The tournament itself will be held at three different sites - Veterans Memorial Golf Course and the Wine Valley Golf Course in addition to the country club - and a small army of volunteers will be required at each course.

"We will probably use 20-to-25 people in one capacity or another each day at the country club," Morgan said. "And another 20-or-so at the other two courses."

And, she said, she is getting plenty of helpful support from the club professionals at each course.

"Doug (Newman) at Vets, John (Thorsnes) at Wine Valley and Lisa (Hyland) at the club are all fabulous to work with," she said. "They are all generous and knowledgeable and are doing a heck of a job to put on a fine tournament for these kids."

The same can be said of the tournament director.

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