Thursday, April 13, 2006

Remembering Mo Willlie

Morris Williams Golf Course is one of the municipal tracks in Austin. It's more affectionately known as "Mo Willie." And while each succeeding generation of Texas golfers learns the name of Morris Williams if they play the course, not many now remember the person - or people, rather - for whom the course was named.

Who was Morris Williams, and why does he have a golf course named after him? There were two Morris Williamses, Senior and Junior. Senior was a sportswriter at the Austin American-Statesman for decades. His son was a golfer of great fame in his day.

Williams Jr. is the subject of an article that recently appeared in the Daily Texan, the University of Texas newspaper, and was reprinted on the CSTV (College Sports TV) website run by CBS.

Williams Jr. was one of the greatest young golfers in Texas history, and favorite of Harvey Penick, who coached Williams at UT.

"Morris was grinning and friendly, almost apologetic about beating you," Penick wrote in his book, And if You Play Golf, You're My Friend.

Williams was the No. 1 player at UT from 1948-50, leading the Longhorns to the Southwest Conference title each year. The article goes into a match played at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth - a match followed by Ben Hogan - between Williams and TCU's No. 1 player, Dan Jenkins (the famous writer). Then it details Williams' winning of the "Texas Slam":

In a 12-month stretch spanning 1949-1950, Williams won the Texas Junior golf title, the Texas Amateur and the Texas PGA's annual tournament. No one else in history has ever won the top junior, amateur and professional tournaments in Texas all in one year. In that same period, Williams came within a hair of winning the NCAA individual championship, losing 1-down in the 36-hole final to Harvie Ward, one of the best amateur golfers in history. A proud father, Williams Sr. and his wife had collected two huge scrapbooks full of clippings and pictures of their son's exploits. It looked like the younger Williams was about to make a name for himself on the PGA Tour.

But it was not to be.

Williams joined the Air Force during the Korean War, and during a training flight in 1953 was killed in a plane crash.

Someone had to tell his father. That someone was Harvey Penick. Williams Sr. fainted in Penick's arms when he heard the news.

That weekend, his son's body arrived in Austin, accompanied by a military escort. Penick was a pallbearer at the funeral, as he would be at older Williams' funeral only six years later. In 1963, the city of Austin dedicated the Morris Williams Golf Course to the memory of father and son.

Read the full article here.

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