EDMOND — When Oak Tree National hosts the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, four players from the home course are expected to play.
All four have intriguing storylines.
Bob Tway, the 1986 PGA Tour Player of the Year, is immortalized for his shot that won the 1986 PGA Championship.
Gil Morgan compiled a memorable PGA Tour career, then dominated the Champions Tour for two years. Morgan is third all-time in senior wins.
Willie Wood revived his career last year on the Champions Tour, providing an inspiring story of perseverance.
Scott Verplank, who will be profiled next Sunday in the finale of a three-part series, turns 50 the day before the 2014 U.S. Senior Open. The Oak Tree major will be his Champions Tour debut.
“It just doesn't happen very often where that many guys from one course get to play on their home track,” Tway said. “The golf course should hold its own. Hopefully we'll have a week of good weather and it would be great.
“When the PGA was here (in 1988), it was a lot of fun. I think this tournament with the four of us in it could be even more fun.”
Tway, 54, picks and chooses his tournaments these days. He didn't play last month at the Patriot Cup in Owasso as a precaution.
“My back was hurting pretty bad. I barely got through the (Senior) PGA,” Tway said. “(Doctors) told me I needed to rest a little bit. Getting older, I can't practice all day, every day like I want to. But I'll be fine. I'll be playing in a lot of tournaments this summer.”
Tway is still competitive. He has compiled more than $18 million in career earnings, including $1.7 million his four years on the Champions Tour.
“I haven't played as well as I think I should play,” Tway said. “I still feel like I can play almost as well as I've ever played. My chipping and putting, the scoring aspect of the game, haven't been as good.”
After failing to make the PGA Tour his first three attempts early in his career, Tway broke through in 1986. After winning four tournaments that year, Tway was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Three years later, Tway won the Memorial. He won in Las Vegas in 1990 and won again in Hilton Head, S.C., in 1995. His final PGA Tour win came at the 2003 Canadian Open at the age 44.
On the Champions Tour, Tway has never won but he's finished in the top 50 in annual earnings all four years he's competed, highlighted by a 33rd finish ($540,000) in 2010.
“I keep working on it. Hopefully it will get a little bit better because I still really enjoy playing,” Tway said. “I feel I can play a lot better than I've been playing.”
For Tway, it was one tournament — more specifically one shot — he will be remembered for.
At age 27, having won three times earlier in the year, Tway was having a special season. He trailed by nine shots after two rounds of the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, before shooting a course-record 64 on Saturday.
He still trailed by four strokes heading into Sunday but charged on the back nine. The three-time All-American from Oklahoma State methodically chased down Greg Norman, who was coming off a win at the British Open but had blown third-round leads at the Masters and U.S. Open.
With the two tied heading to No. 18, Norman's approach shot settled in a thick patch of grass just off the green. Tway was in a front-right bunker.
Tway blasted out. When the ball landed softly and rolled directly into the cup, Tway jumped up and down in the bunker, both arms lifted high. Norman's chip to tie rolled 10 feet past the hole.
“When people think about my career, that's what they see,” Tway said. “A lot of people have difficulty with bunkers. For it to end that way, it was the big memory from my biggest accomplishment. People bring it up all the time.”
Morgan, an optometrist from Wewoka, is the only one of the four who didn't play at OSU and instead attended East Central University.
The 66-year-old Morgan's career is nearing its end.
But it's been a remarkable career.
Morgan collected $17.2 million on the senior tour and has won 25 Champions Tour events, third most in history behind Hale Irwin (45) and Lee Trevino (29).
“Overall, my game is not as good as it used to be,” Morgan said. “This is my 17th year (on the Champions Tour). That's a long time. Usually your longevity is five to 10 years on this tour. I feel fortunate to still be able to play even though my consistency isn't quite as good.”
During his 24 years on the PGA Tour, Morgan won seven events between 1977 and 1990. He consistently finished in the top five. His most prestigious win was the 1978 World Series of Golf. He also played on the 1979 and 1983 Ryder Cup teams.
But it was the senior tour where he became a threat to win any tournament he entered in his first few years after turning 50.
Morgan's first senior tour win was in 1996 when he edged Jim Colbert and Chi-Chi Rodriguez by one stroke at the Ralph's Senior Classic. He won six Champions Tour events the following year and won six more in 1998.
It's been six years since his last win at the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, but he still averages 18 tournaments a year.
Morgan plays Oak Tree National less than the other three, about a dozen rounds a year. But it is his home course, which he said will give all four players an advantage.
“You can sleep in your own bed,” Morgan said. “For me, it will only be five minutes to the club. That will be really nice.”
Morgan hasn't finished in the top 30 in money earnings since he finished 13th with $1.17 million six years ago at age 60.
One highlight from his 40 years on the two tours was when he became the first player to reach 10-under par in an U.S. Open. Morgan got as low as 12-under on Saturday in 1992 at Pebble Beach. In windy conditions, he fell out of contention on Sunday with a final-round 81.
The bottom line number is Morgan has won 40 pro tournaments in four decades.
“Coming from a small community, not having big-time golf experience until I got to the (PGA) Tour, I feel real fortunate,” Morgan said. “I was able to play pretty well on the regular tour and then got to a higher level on the Champions Tour. To make a living at it has been such a blessing.”
Willie Wood's long-awaited win — breaking a 16-year drought — made a lot of people smile.
Overcoming a wide range of circumstances throughout his career on and off the course, Wood is the type of player fans pull for.
Wood's first wife, Holly, died of bone cancer in 1989. He went through two divorces. He had shoulder surgery on a torn labrum the year he turned 50.
But on Aug. 19 last year, things began to turn around. That was the day Wood won the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y. A month later Wood won the Pacific Links championship in Kapolei, Hawaii.
Because he often had to qualify last season, Wood played in only half the senior events. He still finished 15th in money earnings ($1.01 million).
Wood, 52, is exempt this year. For the first time in a long time, Wood can concentrate on playing golf rather than qualifying.
One of the most celebrated junior golfers ever, Wood endured several major hurdles to get his game back to a point where he can compete for titles.
Wood's pre-pro career is legendary. He won the 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur and was named the 1978 AJGA Player of the Year. At Oklahoma State, Wood was the national player of the year as a junior, the year he won a school-record four events.
But when Wood turned pro, he never gained momentum. He logged some time on the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) tour.
After years of trying to remain competitive, Wood savored the win in Endicott. In his 16th Champions Tour event, Wood ended a 16-year victory drought. His last win had come at the 1996 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in Madison, Miss.
“Last year was really terrific. I got it going. It stayed with me. Everything just fell into place,” Wood said. “It's a shame the season had to end and I had to take three months off of not competing.”
Wood's game is a better fit for the Champions Tour. At 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, his best asset is his short game. From 150 yards in, Wood is a contender because he can consistently rely on his wedge and putter. Shorter holes have translated into lower scores.
Wood, 49th on the Champions Tour money list ($113,502), feels good about his game. This summer he hopes to regain some of last year's momentum.
“I hit the ball pretty well at the Senior PGA,” Wood said. “I hope it carries over to this summer. I'd really like to get hot again.”
Of all four Oak Tree players, Wood is the only one who didn't play in the PGA 25 years ago.
“The fact that I didn't get to play in '88 this (2014 Senior Open) is very important to me,” Wood said. “It will be the only time I've played a championship on my home course.”