IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Alyzabeth An Morgan
“What’s really special or unique about Alyzabeth?” As Northeast Florida is truly a golfer’s paradise, early on Ford and Alyson were enthused when Alyzabeth seemed to like the golf lessons from her first coach and being in the outdoor atmosphere. Alyzabeth came all of the way from Chongqing City, China to discover how much she likes golf. Her parents, Ford and Alyson received the news of their new daughter on 08/08/2008 and flew to China to meet her. They arrived in time to celebrate her second birthday together. She had not been outdoors her first two years in China so acclimating her to Florida and golfing was a joy to watch.
Another special treat for the Morgan’s was watching what many golfers take years to accomplish and that’s making a hole in one, in July 2014, Alyzabeth achieved what many golfers only dream of – a hole in one as a seven year old! And she hit it from the Ladies (yes – adults!) red tees and now is a member of the NFJG Foundations “HOLE-IN-ONE Club.
“How did Alyzabeth get started in golf and how long has she been playing?” A common question asked of most young golfers and for Alyzabeth Morgan that answer was an eyebrow raising four and a half years old. Actually, you could dial that timeline back to three and a half years old when she received her plastic Disney princess golf club set from Nana of the North, Alyzabeth’s golf loving grandmother from Maine. Since that day in 2010, many winning shots would be made as she dominated the Solo plastic cup putting contests against her dad on their improvised indoor course, sparking her curiosity. It was mom, Alyson, who made the family life changing request to the stay-at-home dad, “Ford, why not take her with you when you go to the course to hit balls, let her try playing at the driving range”.
Alyzabeth’s skills grew from putting into cups around the house to playing on real grass. She was mentored and trained by her beloved Coach PGA Professional Doug Cody, who saw her talent and helped it blossom. Her very first tournament in August of 2012 (U.S. Kids Orlando) had Alyzabeth as the youngest playing in a field of five girls. And she came in fifth. Not to be deterred, she played in a River Bend Youth Golf clinic in December 2012. Again the youngest, at age 6, Alyzabeth teed off from the same distance as the big kids – some as old as thirteen. This time she bested all of them to come in with the lowest score!
“Did anything special influence Alyzabeth?” In 2014, at the age of seven Alyzabeth began playing the NFJG TOUR starting out in the “Foundation Division”. What an eye opener to see her play the longer distances and the amount of competition. We heard about the NFJG TOUR when we met Jack Aschenbach at THE PLAYERS Championship Golf tournament, at the practice area open to the public with professionals giving each person a quick 5 minute coaching session. Everyone looked at her Dad Ford to select a club but it was Alyzabeth who stepped up, meeting Mr. Jack. From that day, we have been grateful to the NFJGF organization for the wonderful tournaments offered to youth golfers. She has always expressed a desire to “play up” with the older girls and has now reached the Elite Girls tour.
There is a story that unfolded near the beginning of their day. As they entered the golf course, they saw an area set up with four or five golf professionals with people swinging clubs. Hubby and AA (Alyzabeth) decided to wait in line to see what was going on. While in line Ford chatted with a local U.S. Kids family, the Flemings. As they waited, they saw each fan select a club, then take a turn at hitting golf balls into a net a few times while getting a quick tip; Ford thought they were just allowing everyone to take a few swings and then move on. Alyzabeth selected a kids driver, closest to her size (it was longer than what she was used to).
When their turn came, the next available professional called them over to his area. He looked at Ford expectantly and Ford pointed to AA as she had the club. He said, “Oh, okay young lady, take a few practice swings”. So she took some practice swings and the man stood up straight and watched, raised an eye brow and exclaimed “Whoa”. Yep, she plays. He saw her U.S. Kids golf cap.
Then he asked who Alyzabeth’s coach was. Ford answered Doug Cody at River Bend. The man slowly looked at Ford. And then the recognition. Looking back to Alyzabeth he said, “This is Alyzabeth, I was at Doug’s funeral”. Yep, he knew Doug. He was at Doug’s funeral and heard all that was said there to honor him.
Once again, not by chance and nothing to do with Doug has been a coincidence. Doug, a religious man said God told him to teach Alyzabeth; and now this man was now giving tips to AA and knew Doug very well.
The Pro asked AA to hit more balls; he held her shoulders and showed her how to finish the swing with her shoulders. Then he had her hit balls about half dozen more times.
He told Ford, she’s ready for junior golf. He gave Ford his card and said he would love to have her play on the North Florida Junior Golf Tour (he was Jack Aschenbach, President of the North Florida PGA Chapter and Director for the North Florida Junior Golf Foundation).
Funny, that just that morning, Ford had sent an email to that very organization to see about AA playing in that league, even though she didn’t meet the minimum age. Jack said, “We make exceptions”. Coincidence? That Ford and AA stepped up to the first available spot and it was a friend of Doug’s? And then we grieve all over again, for what we miss so very much.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Over the years, AA has watch her parents donate time and money to various charities and included AA on these activities. The dog food donations all began when AA asked about having a pet dog. She has wanted a dog for as long as her parents could remember. Ford and Alyson had a small (non-shedding) rescue pet mutt, unfortunately he passed when AA was still 2 years old. We finally agreed to find a puppy (after making her write down the pros and cons!) and the rule was a small non-shedding breed. About the same time, before finding the right puppy, we discussed her upcoming birthday in 2016 and any gifts she wanted. She couldn’t think of anything so we discussed an option of doing something for a charity. Through her conversations about wanting a dog and the need for pet food donations in our county shelters, AA decided to ask her friends and family to bring a bag of dog food in lieu of birthday gifts if they wished. Five years later, this year 2020, she donated over 500 pounds to the Middleburg safe (no-kill) shelter. And, in the end she has her labradoodle Ginger to hug and love daily (and they, Ford and AA, did not follow the rules – Ginger is not small at 50 pounds!).