By Jim Ecker

James Morgan traveled a long way and survived some anxious moments before he was able to join the Kirkwood men's golf team this fall.

Morgan, who is from Scotland, returned home last March after Kirkwood saw its season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world. He finished the spring semester with online classes and got his two-year degree, but he was reluctant to see his promising career with the Eagles end so abruptly with Kirkwood a strong contender for national honors.

Morgan waited at home in Scotland for most of the summer, wondering and waiting for the U.S. government to grant visas for international students. The National Junior College Athletic Association offered spring athletes an extra year of eligibility because of what happened last spring, so Morgan knew he had the option of returning to Kirkwood for a third year.

He ultimately grabbed it and is back in Cedar Rapids, excited about the fall season that is scheduled to begin this weekend (Sept. 12-13) with the Klocke Classic at Hunters Ridge Golf Course in Marion.

"I'm really happy to be back and I'm super-excited about getting back to competition again," he said. "I have not played a tournament since I won in our first event last spring."

Morgan boasted a scoring average of 74.36 last fall for Kirkwood with a low round of 67. He was enjoying another good campaign last spring when the season was called off and is one of the leaders for the Eagles again.

Morgan arrived back in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 7 and had to self-quarantine for two weeks according to U.S. rules for foreign visitors. Once the quarantine ended, he was back on the course and getting ready for the new campaign.

The NJCAA postponed several fall sports until the spring, but golf is being allowed this fall because of the nature of the sport and the ability for social distancing. No fans are being allowed to attend the Klocke Classic, but the golfers are free to swing away.

Morgan hated to leave his teammates behind last March when the season was called off, but his family thought he'd be safer at home in Scotland. He was able to focus on his schoolwork with the online classes without any distractions.

"We were on full lockdown in Scotland and there wasn't much to do, so the schoolwork actually kept me somewhat busy and relieved some of the boredom of sitting in the house all day," he related.

"The golf courses were shut down and they didn't reopen until the 29th of May. My dad and I built a homemade golf net that I was able to use and practice with, but obviously it was far from ideal."

Scotland canceled all its golf tournaments this summer, but Morgan said he was able to play in some matches with friends at his golf club. Now he's back in Iowa, playing in real tournaments again for Kirkwood.

"Super-excited," summed it up.