THE Walker Cup turned out to be far closer than predicted, and two Irish men were at the centre of the charge for GB&I.
Although the win went to USA, Kinsale’s John Murphy should have many happy memories to look back on from his Walker Cup week.
Murphy partnered with Kilkenny’s Mark Power to claim two wins in the foursomes while Power also won a point in the Singles.
Power, a son of Skibbereen’s Eileen Rose McDaid followed in his Mum’s footsteps by playing in the elite amateur event, Eileen Rose played Curtis Cup in 1994.
Murphy missed out on selection for the 2019 Walker Cup, and he made up for that this season with an impressive run of results from February to ensure his selection on the ten man roster.
As predicted the Irish pair were partnered for the foursomes and they came back from three down to win on the 18th green in the opening matches on Saturday.
On Sunday they were in fine form again, this time taking an early lead after some impressive shot making.
This time it was their turn to defend the lead and both players hit textbook shots on the final hole to seal the win.
While Murphy and Power dove-tailed nicely in the foursomes, Murphy was up against the best of the Americans in his singles matches.
That didn’t stop him from putting up a battle on both days. Despite being 5 down at one stage on Saturday, he battled back to 2 down before losing out to Cole Hammer on the 17th.
On Sunday he also finished on the 17th after a battling run against Ricky Castillo, the form player for USA.
Travel restrictions meant that nobody from Kinsale was able to travel to Florida for the event, but New York based Shane Fitzsimons was one of a handful of spectators from Ireland in Seminole last week, and the Kinsale native savoured every bit of the Walker Cup experience.
He followed John Murphy for 35 holes on Saturday, watching his neighbour play some unbelievable golf as he won his foursomes match and narrowly lost his singles match.
“John and Mark’s comeback in the foursomes was incredible and John almost pulled it off again in the singles.
"Even after having an insurmountable task he was sensational on the back 9. Hammer was 4 under after 9, I’m not sure there was better golf that that.
"There was some great shots, his tee shot on 13, trading birdies on 15, bunker shot on 16 and his putt had a 90 degree break on it.”
The course is being compared to Augusta, hard fairways, fast greens and tricky slopes are making the golf exciting.
“The course is magnificent, the greens are hard and fast, and you’re not seeing the elevations on the tee. Pin placement as tough as you would see anywhere, the course was set up for par to be a good score.
“There's a small crowd, just 1,500 spectators but the Irish find each other. Eoghan O’Connell was here, Paul Buckley, Gerry McIlroy a few Irish based in Florida. John and Mark’s coaches from Louisville and Aaron O’Callaghan from Wake Forest also made the trip.
"It’s like being at a match when golf started, no ropes, walking the fairways with the players.
"The atmosphere is subdued with a little clapping for a good shot. It’s unlike any golf event I have been at, and I can’t imagine there will be another one like is as we come out of Covid.”
Paul Buckley was another Cork man who was lucky enough to be in Florida.
He too followed Murphy for the four rounds and he was impressed with the resilience he showed.
“John made a ridiculous up and down from the front right bunker on the 7th, and as he walked to the 8th tee he said ‘Bucks, it’s time to play some golf,” explained Buckley.
“He was three down but his mind was still in the game. He fought and fought but just didn’t get any breaks.
"Making the birdie on the 16th to keep the match alive was a true sign of his determination.”
Prior to heading to Seminole Buckley was playing himself early last week in a local qualifier for the US Open and the Kanturk man bagged himself a place at the final qualifying stage.
Buckley shot a three under par 68 to finish in 6th place, and he was one of the lucky eight to advance to final qualifying.
He has now booked a place in Dallas Athletic Club on 24th May and is in with a chance of making it to the US Open in Torrey Pines in the middle of June.
While the odds are against him, Buckley is still hoping for a good performance in the company of a field dominated by tour professionals.
“I can’t wait for Dallas. I’m planning on heading down there on the 20th and playing both courses on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd. I hope the A game returns to keep the dream alive.”
After the energy sapping week in Seminole, Murphy has a few days to recharge the batteries before the NCAA Regionals next week.
His University of Louisville Cardinals are in action in Indiana. It could be Murphy’s final appearance for the Cardinals, he’s back as a redshirt senior following the cutting short of his senior year last year due to Covid.
Murphy has an impressive 73.00 stroke average and had two top-5 finishes this season, including a second at the General Hackler.
He’ll be looking to beat that stroke average to get the Cardinals a top five finish and a place in the NCAA finals in Arizona at the end of the month. It could be a busy few weeks as Murphy is also likely to play in the US Open final qualifying.
That means there’s a possibility of two Cork golfers playing in the US Open in June, it’s not too often that that happens.