Doctors were never able to explain what made Robbie Morway so sick in middle school, but the illness definitely took him away from his first athletics love of basketball. In the process, it gave Morway a new path to Division I athletics.
The Homestead High School senior finished his decorated golf career with a third-place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state meet June 5-6, with a two-day score of 148 at University Ridge in Madison. He’ll golf on the same course regularly next year at the University of Wisconsin as a member of the Badgers.
“My game was in a good form going in; I just couldn’t make any putts,” said Morway, who posted an identical scorecard to his junior season with back-to-back rounds of 74. “I just didn’t have my best stuff when I needed it. I really like that course; it’ll be my home course next year, and it’s a really sweet course. I like playing there every year.”
Arrowhead freshman Piercen Hunt shot 141, leading the Warhawks to the team state championship, and Jed Baranzyk of Bay Port shot 146 to take second.
Morway tied for sixth as a junior and appeared at the year-end showcase all four years, which is impressive, considering he was fairly new to the sport when he joined the team as a freshman at Homestead.
“Robbie ends up being the second-most accomplished golfer in Homestead history,” Homestead coach Steve O’Brien said. “His competitiveness is probably right there with anybody I’ve ever met. He wants to win everything. That carried over in a real positive manner on the golf course.”
The only other golfer to fare better at HHS? Jordan Niebrugge, who competed at Oklahoma State and will take swings locally this week at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Through middle school, basketball was everything to the Morways, and for good reason. Robbie’s father, David, was general manager with the Indiana Pacers for 13 seasons, then became assistant general manager with the Milwaukee Bucks from 2012-15.
While in Indiana, he oversaw the operation that drafted Paul George and Lance Stephenson, two key components that helped the Pacers reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and push the Miami Heat (and LeBron James) to seven games before falling just short. Robbie remembers the games well, particularly a massive Game 6 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“I used to take friends all the time to the games and take advantage of it,” Robbie said. “Growing up in Indiana with my dad working in the NBA, we just grew up being big basketball guys and were at the gym all he time playing AAU ball, all the way until seventh grade. I still love it. I watch the NBA in great detail and love college basketball. I have a special place in my heart for basketball and with my dad still working with it, I can talk to him about trades, free agency, just about players all the time.”
Currently, David is a consultant for the Utah Jazz.
After leaving the Pacers, the family took a year off in South Carolina, a place where Robbie began playing golf in earnest — because basketball was suddenly a more difficult pursuit.
Robbie contracted mono and then dealt with muscle inflammation. Doctors identified it as a virus but never established a concrete diagnosis.
“I couldn’t really play basketball at the highest level anymore, so I turned to golf,” Robbie said. “I never really played golf — maybe once a year for my birthday before that — but South Carolina is when I really fell in love with it.”
Under the state athletic codes, Robbie was able to play varsity golf as an eighth grader. His game flourished when a senior teammate ticketed to play at Wake Forest on scholarship, Woody Woodward, referred Robbie to coach Tim Cook.
“He got me started really started loving it, and when I moved up here, (Cook) knew my current coach (John Perna) in Chicago. He said, ‘There’s a guy up there you should try working with,’ and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Twice a week, Robbie would drive to Chicago over the winter to work with Perna in three-hour sessions.
“I worked really hard, and we kind of picked apart and analyzed certain parts of my game, and it’s showing this year with my consistency,” Robbie said.
The North Shore Conference Player of the Year also said he learned many lessons from O’Brien.
“My freshman year when I came in, I was out of shape and wasn’t really strong,” Robbie said. “For all four years, we’ve had morning workouts at 6 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for the golf team. I couldn’t have done it without him. That and his support with me throughout the years, and also my parents (David and Karen). When I couldn’t drive down to Chicago, they were always driving me.”
Added O’Brien, “Just his natural physical progression and his willingness to lift weights and work on his core strength and flexibility really did help his game. He became much longer and much more stable over the golf ball.”
Another game entirely
Perhaps ironically, Robbie’s younger brother, Michael, also moved on from basketball but took an entirely different course, becoming a top tennis player. He was Homestead’s No. 1 singles player this year, qualified for the state individual meet as a sophomore and helped the Highlanders reach the team state tournament.
“He wants to play in college,” Robbie said.
He wouldn’t be the first Morway to do so.