Head pro battling Stage IV cancer gets sponsor exemption into Bermuda Championship
Playing golf "is like tranquility for me. I don't have time to think about being sick."
When Brian Morris received a sponsor exemption into the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, he cried.
The 53-year-old head pro at Ocean View Golf Course in Devonshire, Bermuda, “Mr. Golf” on the island according to his cousin, journeyman pro Michael Sims, will be making his first PGA Tour start as he continues to battle Stage IV cancer.
“You know what, first thing I thought of was how proud my father would be. He passed away about 35 years ago and he was my golf guy, he’s the one who got me into golf. So obviously I cried. I’m not afraid to tell anybody. It brought so many emotions out,” Morris said. “I was thinking how proud he would be, how proud my sons and my daughter’s going to be, my wife, my entire family. Like wow, you know, it was hard to explain except for tears.”
Almost two years ago, Morris experienced vertigo-like symptoms and went to the doctor for what he thought would be a routine examination.
“The doctor, you know, he does that finger across your eyes, and you follow the finger,” Morris told PGATour.com. “One of my eyes was moving. One of my eyes was, he said it was like a jittery type of like jerking. And he was like, oh, boy.
“So, he gave me a CAT scan. We went from CAT scan to an MRI to intensive care to air ambulance to brain surgery on Monday.”
Brian Morris has terminal stage-4 brain cancer and a sponsor exemption at @Bermuda_Champ “I don't have time to think about being sick. I don't feel sick, I don't act sick. Just because I'm playing golf, I don't have any time to think about anything like that.” pic.twitter.com/p46G5Pk4mA
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) October 27, 2021
Morris provided some gallows humor of his surgeon cutting into the back of his skull to remove a malignant tumor.
“‘You know, I’m taking the tumor out, but anything could happen,’ ” recounted Morris. “It could be paralysis. It could be this. It could be death. And I was blinking like uncontrollably. And he said, ‘Are you OK?’ And I say, ‘Yep, I’m fine. I’m just practicing waking up.’ ”
On Dec. 23, 2019, two days after the surgery, he was told his brain cancer was terminal and had metastasized to his stomach, neck and esophagus. He’s been undergoing chemotherapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston every three months. Those treatments have drained his energy supplies and he often finds it difficult to stand for more than a half hour at a time. He’ll be allowed to take a cart when he competes at Port Royal, which is hosting the PGA Tour for a third time. But when Morris gets on the golf course it’s as if he’s transformed.
“It’s like tranquility for me. I don’t have time to think about being sick. I don’t feel sick, I don’t act sick,” he said. “Just because I’m playing golf, I don’t have any time to think about anything like that. I’m just hitting shots and trying to make putts and trying to stay out of bunkers. It’s just so cool that playing golf like takes me completely away because I’m always in it, between doctors and hospitals and chemo and trips and Boston, always. It’s there every day except for those four and a half hours that I play golf, so I try to do that as often as possible.”
Based on his prognosis, Morris knows he’s playing this week on borrowed time—“I’ve been past my expiration date, you know?”—but he’s not taking anything for granted and hopes his story can serve as inspiration to others. Having teared up at the news of his sponsor invite, Morris was asked how he will he handle the emotions of playing in the tournament in front of family, friends and his club members.
“Probably cry on 18,” he said. “I’ll be emotional, 100 percent. But I have so many people with me, like cheering for me, wishing me well and I don’t want to let them down.”