Celebrating the 100th NJSGA Junior Championship: Looking back with Morgan Hoffmann
Since winning the NJSGA/William Y. Dear Junior Championship in 2005, Morgan Hoffmann has progressed to golf’s biggest stage where is he carving out a story that goes beyond golf.
The Wyckoff native was a regular on the PGA Tour from 2013-19, a college All-America at Oklahoma State University and was once ranked as the No. 1 amateur golfer in the country. He was also a two-time Academic All-America.
Today, Hoffmann, who is battling a form of muscular dystrophy (MD), an incurable disease, has aspirations to rejoin the Tour sometime in the future. However, his ascension to becoming one of the top golfers in the world started here in New Jersey, specifically with his victory almost 16 years ago in the 84th Junior Championship at Rockaway River Country Club in Denville.
“Winning the NJSGA Junior was truly the starting point of my golf career,” Hoffmann said recently. “I think at the time, winning anything was the goal for me. Playing golf and competing in a huge event in my home state of New Jersey was so much fun.”
In the NJSGA Junior, Hoffmann defeated Gene Yang of Glenwood Country Club in the final, 8 and 7, after beating Mike Corbo of Rockaway River CC in the semifinal, 4 and 3. The week before, Yang had won the Metropolitan Golf Association Junior Championship while Corbo was the state high school champion in 2004, an event Hoffmann won in 2005 and 2006.
“Mike and I were friends, and it was a really fun match, and Gene was just coming off a big win, so he was the guy to beat. I remember feeling very accomplished when I emerged on top. 2005 was a big year for me. I made it to my first U.S. Amateur, which was held at Merion, which was so memorable, and now is one of my favorite courses,” Hoffmann stated.
Later in 2005, he won the Carter Cup, the MGA’s junior stroke play championship.
“Winning the NJSGA Junior was a huge confidence boost for me. Especially winning the final match at such a margin was proof to me that I wasn’t scared of going low and not looking back,” Hoffmann recalled.
After winning his second high school championship in 2006, Hoffmann left Ramapo High School, enrolling in the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy in Florida.
That helped propel him to a full scholarship at Oklahoma State, where his teammates included future PGA Tour pros Kevin Tway, Ricky Fowler, and Peter Uihlein. Hoffmann, Fowler, and Uihlein represented the United States on the victorious Walker Cup team in 2009.
A year later, he took part in his first U.S. Open. He left college following the 2011 season when he first noticed a change in his body in his right pectoral muscle. Yet, he continued to pursue his goal.
In 2012, Hoffmann played in 13 events on the Web.com Tour, finished 19th on the money list, and earned his promotion to the PGA Tour. During his career, he made the FedEx Cup Playoffs three times in four seasons, including 81st place in the FedEx Cup standings in 2017, the season after his diagnosis.
His best finish on Tour was runner-up in the Honda Classic in 2017. Leading the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational after three rounds, he tied for fourth place.
Hoffmann, who is currently on medical leave from the PGA TOUR, went public with his diagnosis in the fall of 2017, writing a first-person essay in “The Players Tribune.” While battling his disease, he made only four starts in 2019, the last in early October in Las Vegas.
His Morgan Hoffmann Foundation has raised more than $3 million to help find a cure for the disease.
Last February (2020), Hoffmann was the recipient of the PGA TOUR Courage Award, joining Erik Compton (2013), Jarrod Lyle (2015), and Gene Sauers (2017). The award is presented to a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome adversity to make a meaningful contribution to the game.
Hoffmann has faced the challenges of MD and has developed an appreciation for giving back and helping others in the process.
He works with many charities, including The First Tee, Birdies for the Brave, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Walking for Kids, and Els for Autism. With his best friend, Sean Einhaus, Hoffmann hosted a golf event to raise money for children in Nepal to build a school and supply computers for the classrooms.
In 2017, at Arcola Country Club in Paramus (where he grew up playing the game) hosted the inaugural Morgan Hoffmann Foundation Celebrity Pro-Am, which annually draws up to 500 participants, including PGA Tour players.
According to an article by Helen Ross of PGATOUR.com, Hoffmann and his wife and Chelsea, who married in November of 2018, have since “...set about finding their own path to his health and well-being, relying on holistic treatments, herbal tinctures, and a strict raw fruit and plant-based diet to detoxify his body, as well as yoga and meditation and a hyperbaric chamber.”
Hoffmann is pleased with his progress.
“I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in Costa Rica immersing in many plant-based and natural treatments that have really been helping. My muscles are starting to come back slowly, and I’m hoping to make a return to golf sooner than later,” he said.
“But I’m not trying to rush the healing process. I am enjoying learning so much about my body and new natural healing modalities. My wife and I are working on our Foundation, constantly trying to bring our dream of building a holistic, plant-based health and wellness center to reality. And it is all coming together.”