LA QUINTA — What does a non-practicing optometrist who also happens to be one of the top golfers in his age group see happening in his future?
For sure, Gil Morgan made a spectacle of himself this year on the Senior PGA Tour, where he won six times and made $2.1 million. In the Diners Club matches at PGA West, Morgan was at it again Sunday. He and partner Jay Sigel won the senior final with a 1-up victory over Bob Eastwood and Walter Morgan.
What it meant was more money for Morgan, who splits $220,000 with Sigel, proving once and for all that playing golf for a living is much more lucrative than grinding lenses all day or dilating a bunch of eyes.
And next year, well, Morgan said he might do even better. Who knows?
"Golf is a very strange game," Morgan said.
If anyone had seen Morgan's year coming, they were silent about it. Morgan didn't have a clue he was going to have a breakthrough year on the senior tour until he blistered Desert Mountain with a 22-under score to win the Tradition, the first major of the year.
From then on, it was clear that nothing was going to stop Morgan . . . except Hale Irwin. It's sort of ironic that Irwin chose to have the year of his career the same time Morgan did.
Irwin won nine times and $2.3 million and managed to put Morgan into the background, even if nothing else could.
"I'm sitting here thinking what if Hale hadn't been here this year?" Sigel said. "What would Gil have done? He just played so well."
Morgan led the senior tour with 19 top-10 results in 25 tournaments and was runner-up four times. Morgan was second in greens in regulation, second in putting, second in birdies, second in scoring, second in money and third in total driving. He also led the all-around statistics.
He added it all up and shook his head.
"I was hoping to win a few tournaments, two or three tournaments, probably get close to the million-dollar category," he said.
"But about halfway through the season, I kind of adjusted my thinking and upped the curve a little bit. A good year became a very good year and an exciting one. It was beyond my expectations."
Morgan began his season 11 months ago and it isn't going to end until next weekend at the Lexus Challenge--the last golf event of the year.
"It's been a long year, but I'm not even sure I want it to end," Morgan said.
Steve Elkington and Jeff Maggert upended two-time defending champions Tom Lehman and Duffy Waldorf, 2-and-1, in the PGA Tour finals.
The LPGA final was won by the team of Juli Inkster-Dottie Pepper, who defeated Laura Davies-Nancy Lopez, 3-and-2.
Inkster eagled No. 8 and then holed a bunker shot on the next hole to get an edge. Then Pepper made sure the lead held up with four consecutive birdies on the back, the first three to halve the holes.
Lopez made one birdie all day and Davies had five, but she nearly came out of her shoes on one drive and was disgusted enough to slam the offending shoes into a trash can on her way to the locker room.
There will be no Diners Club matches in 1998 because the Presidents Cup has its date on the schedule. There is speculation that the Diners Club may move to Grayhawk in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1999.