Sister of Murder Victim
'PLAYING WITH AN ANGEL'
It had been 13 hours from Honolulu to Sydney to Gold Coast,
where Marianne Morris was to play in the Feb. 25-28 Australian
Ladies Masters. On the last leg Quantas had offered nothing but
cookies. Starved, Morris and her caddie, Lisa Becka, and Lisa's
mother, Pat--the three were planning to tour the outback after
the tournament--feasted on scones and turkey sandwiches when
they got off the plane. They checked into their condo, and
before dusk all three were asleep. At 8 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23,
deputy LPGA commissioner Jim Webb came to the door.
His grim news: James Michael Morris, 39, Marianne's only sibling
and also her coach, business partner and occasional caddie, had
been found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in his suburban
Atlanta place of business, a pro shop called the Golf Shack, in
what police were saying looked like a robbery. Marianne got the
news right out of the shower. Webb held her so she wouldn't hit
the floor, but she ended up there anyway, cradled by Pat as she
wept. "Why?" Morris asked between sobs. "Why did this have to
Morris pulled out of the Australian Masters and last week began
competing again, at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in
Stockbridge, Ga. This was the tournament in which Mike, whose
home was in nearby Lawrenceville, had caddied for her the
previous year. This was where she had stayed with Mike and his
wife, Linda. A lot to think about. Yet last Friday, Marianne
made seven birdies and briefly took the lead during an
opening-round 67. A self-described mediocre putter, she had
rolled them in from everywhere and said as she signed her card,
"I was playing with an angel today."
Marianne and Mike had always been close. When Marianne was 19
and Mike 24, he caddied for her in amateur tournaments. He would
get out of the car and immediately declare, "Morris is the name.
Golf is the game. Where's the 1st tee, and what's the course
record?" Marianne, the quiet one of the two, would laugh. She
set seven course records with Mike on the bag. Big brother could
play, too. He tried the mini-tours before he took a teaching job
in Cincinnati, eventually counting among his pupils the PGA
Tour's Frank Lickliter. "He would play with Frankie, and he
could keep up with him," Marianne says. "I think Frankie would
tell you that Mike could've played on the Tour."
Instead, he rooted for his sister, talking to her on the phone
after her rounds. He seemed to be there on Friday, too. But on
Saturday it all fell apart for Marianne, a 10-year veteran who
has cracked the top 20 on the money list only once. She bogeyed
six of her first nine holes, ending with a missed 18-inch putt
on the 18th, where she informed her playing partners, Rachel
Hetherington--who would go on to win the tournament--and Jane
Crafter, that she couldn't continue. Morris's mother, Barbara,
was in tears as she told a reporter, "Everything went right
yesterday. Nothing went right today." Marianne, too, had red,
puffy eyes and said on the way out, "I really don't feel like
saying anything. I'm sorry."
"It was a combination of everything," Morris said the next day.
"I was pretty emotionally drained after Friday. Plus I wasn't
able to eat much all week, and I was in the bathroom on every
other hole. I felt like I was slowing down my playing partners."
Although it has been more than two months since the shooting,
police do not have a suspect. There is a lead in the case. At
9:30 p.m. on April 17, during a routine traffic stop of a car
containing five passengers, DeKalb County (Ga.) police found two
handguns that had been stolen from the Golf Shack. "Neither one
was the murder weapon," says DeKalb County public information
officer Mikki Jones. "The investigation is still under way."
Morris was feeling better by Sunday night, resting at Linda's
home, where Morris and her mom and Linda ate pizza. Marianne
will try to play again this week at Myrtle Beach, S.C., but
after her experience at the Chick-fil-A, she is beginning to
understand how hard it will be. "I honestly think there was
something going on," she says. "Every day that goes by, he'll be
What do these players have in common?
They lost Houston Open playoffs in 1988, '86 and '80,
respectively, to Curtis Strange, the only player to win the same
Tour event three times in a playoff.
Which is the most prestigious Senior major?
PGA Seniors 11%
U.S. Senior Open 56%
Senior Players 19%
--Based on 227 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Bruce Fleisher break the Senior tour record
of nine wins in a season? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
Jesper Parnevik's victory at Greensboro was the sixth by a
player born outside the U.S. in the 17 Tour events this year. If
internationals continue at that pace, their 37.29 winning
percentage would be the highest in Tour history. Here are their
percentages since 1988.
YEAR EVENTS WINS (MAJORS) PERCENTAGE
'98 45 9 (1) 20.00%
'97 45 14 (1) 31.11%
'96 45 4 (1) 8.89%
'95 44 9 (1) 20.45%
'94 44 14 (4) 31.82%
'93 43 14 (2) 32.56%
'92 45 9 (2) 20.00%
'91 45 10 (2) 22.22%
'90 45 8 (3) 17.78%
'89 44 6 (1) 13.64%
'88 47 10 (2) 21.28%
Rob Roderer, Nags Head, N.C.
Rob, 9, won the junior division of the Mid-Atlantic tour, a
series of seven tournaments for players 18 and under. A
third-grader at First Flight Elementary, Rob picked up the most
recent of his three Mid-Atlantic victories this year at the Tour
Championship at Mill Run Golf and Country Club in Moyock, N.C.
Carrie Summerhays, Heber, Utah
Summerhays, a freshman at BYU whose father, Bruce, plays on the
Senior tour, won the Utah-Dixie Classic in St. George with a
six-over-par 222 and has had five other top 10 finishes this
season. Carrie was one of three freshmen named to the
all-Western Athletic Conference first team.
Steve Dallas, Gilbert, Ariz.
Dallas, 51, co-owner of the Apache Creek Golf Club, won his
second Arizona Public Links title, sinking a 50-foot birdie putt
on the 36th hole to defeat Allen French, 36, of Tempe, by one
shot. As an assistant pro at Seattle's Sahalee Country Club in
the late 1970s, Dallas gave lessons to a young Fred Couples.