The annual Jack Morris Memorial Benefit Golf Tournament is more than an opportunity to enjoy a round of golf while raising much-needed money for the Payson High football program and a memorial scholarship.
It’s also a chance for Jack’s family and friends to remember and honor him.
Each of the six years the tournament has been held, many of Jack’s former Payson High teammates have turned out to play in his memory.
Often, they pause in the middle of the game to walk over to Pioneer Cemetery, where Jack is buried, to say a few words to their old friend and possibly lay a memento on his plot.
Although I am not a golfer, I have played in the tournament because I had the privilege of coaching Jack in football for three seasons while he was in high school.
After he graduated from PHS in 1987, I coaxed him into helping me coach Rim Country Middle School football.
That was the beginning of a coaching career that climaxed in 1998 as line coach on the undefeated PHS team that won the Class 3A state championship.
Morris’ two brothers, Cable Morris and Josh Barhardt, were starters on the team.
After Jack’s one year at RCMS he was obviously hooked on coaching and moved to the high school where he coached undefeated freshman and junior varsity squads.
At the time of his death, Feb. 23, 2004 of complications from a stroke, he was serving as an assistant to PHS head coach Jerry Rhoades. Jack was 34 at the time of his death.
In 1986, he was a senior member of the Longhorn team that advanced to the state championship where it lost a 7-0 heartbreaker to Snowflake.
On the team, he was a member of the offensive and defensive lines, along with his closest friend, Mark Velasco, who nicknamed themselves “The Bruise Brothers.”
His jersey number 70 was retired in 2004 during homecoming halftime ceremonies on Longhorn field and now hangs in Wilson Dome.
In September 2007, his daughter Courtney Morris was elected PHS homecoming queen and wore her father’s original jersey in the parade on Main Street.
The sight of her wearing the jersey, invoked more than a few tears from many of Jack’s former teammates, coaches, friends and family.
The proceeds from the upcoming memorial tournament will fund a $1,500 scholarship given out in Jack’s name. The remaining proceeds benefit the PHS football program. Past scholarship winners include Donnie Wilbanks, Jadyn Walden, Carlos Lopez, Courtney Morris and Jeff Day.
This year, the scramble tournament, which is open to all amateur golfers, tees off at 7:30 a.m., Saturday, June 12 with a shotgun start at Payson Golf Course.
The entry fee is $85 per player, which includes green fees, cart, food and prize money.
“We need as many players as possible because the money is for the kids,” tournament director Gary Cordell said.
Prizes will include closest-to-the-pin awards on two, par-3 holes, longest drive in the fairways and a hole-in-one prize on a pre-selected hole. The tournament golf committee is currently accepting other raffle prizes and hole sponsors. All donations are tax-deductible and a tax ID number is available.
Entry forms are available at the Payson Roundup, 708 N. Beeline Highway or Payson Golf Course.
The deadline is June 10 or after 110 golfers register. For more information about the tournament, call Cordell at (928) 474-4401 or (928) 970-1584.