Jack Morris is my father’s name.
He shares it with one of the greatest baseball pitchers of the 1980s.
And I wasn’t aware until recently that he also shared it with former Payson High football assistant coach Jack Morris, who died 10 years ago days after suffering a stroke at the age of 34.
Having just moved to the area last year, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Jack. But many who did converged on Payson Golf Course on June 14 for the 11th Annual Jack Morris Memorial Golf Tournament. He was such a popular man that organizers of the event closed the sign up period weeks before the tournament.
“We’re completely full with 112 golfers,” said Payson High varsity football head coach Jake Swartwood. “That’s about the max. We don’t like to go more than that because you have too many waiting on the tee box.”
Proceeds go to the Jack Morris Foundation, which funds two $1,500 scholarships awarded annually in his name to PHS students. Any additional money raised from the event goes to benefit the PHS football program.
Morris played on the line at PHS and later went on to become an assistant football coach at Payson for several years, including 1998, when the Longhorns won the Class 3A state championship.
Swartwood played football under Morris.
“Jack was my coach and a great role model and a great person from Payson and this is a great way to keep his memory alive and get scholarships in the hands of our student-athletes,” Swartwood said. “We try to model our staff to be like Jack Morris was.”
Two years ago, money raised from the tournament helped PHS buy 13 football helmets costing $250 apiece.
“They take care of us,” Swartwood said of the Jack Morris Foundation. “We can’t thank them enough.”
He said the scholarships are such a big benefit to the deserving students who earn them. They’re hoping to be able to add a third annual scholarship, but that depends on the amount of money the tournament raises.
“If we can give another kid a chance to go to school, $1,500 goes a long way, especially if you’re going to a community college,” Swartwood said.
The Tonto Apache Tribe entered 11 teams into the tournament for the second consecutive year. “That results in $3,000, so that covers the (two) scholarships right there,” Swartwood said. “Basically we’re trying to cover our costs with the rest.”
The coach said this is an event people look forward to every year.
“It’s turned into a way for those who’ve played football or other events to come hang out with their friends and talk about the good times to get together,” Swartwood said.
And pay tribute to a good man.