Cork golfer John Murphy selected for highly prestigious US college golf award

Cork golfer John Murphy selected for highly prestigious US college golf award
John Murphy in action for Louisville in 2019.

IT was March 24 and instead of heading to Sawgrass CC in Florida for the second-last regular-season tournament, John Murphy was headed home.

After three years in the University of Louisville, college life looked like it was over for the Kinsale man.

The plans to compete in the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championships were gone, the exams and graduation plans were changed, and an important trip to Louisville for his parents Carmel and Owen were all cancelled.

While the wider public health issues are far more important, it was a crushing blow for Murphy who was having a really strong season.

Murphy had two individual wins on the Division 1 circuit and three team wins. It was a great finish for Murphy in many respects, he comfortably maintained his ranking in the top 150 amateurs in the world.

Murphy came back to Cork with his head high, happy that he had seen more improvements in his game in his final year. 

Since then he was selected as the 2020 Byron Nelson Award winner, the first golfer from Louisville's men's golf to be recognised with a prize that marks him down as future PGA tour pro. 

One of the benefits of winning is that Murphy now has a place in the PGA Tour event, the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic which takes place in Dallas, Texas next May. 

“My senior year certainly filled me with confidence,” explained Murphy. "It was great to be recognised on a national stage and I had a lot of fun on the golf course and continued to learn and grow as a player.

“I had certainly put in some good work the last few years and put myself in a nice position going into my senior year, particularly after finishing the summer strong. Ian Stafford and I had put in some really good and productive work to get me ready for a strong senior year and thankfully it paid off in the end.”

That strong finish that Murphy mentions was an impressive final hole win at the Mullingar Scratch Cup. That win, his biggest in Ireland, was a huge boost as he returned to Kentucky.

And his form continued with four top-10 finishes in his first five tournaments. His first US win came in September and he posted a second win in the rain-affected Dorado Beach event in Puerto Rico in early March.

The three years were all different, a slow start in year one, a strong performance in year two, and his senior year brought him two key wins.

John only made the decision to move to the US after spending his first year of college in Maynooth.

He was a member of the Harrington Scholars programme which has produced several fledgling professional golfers.

Maynooth in many cases is similar to the US college system, they have a top-class programme which gives some of Ireland’s top golfers an opportunity to train and play in a unique environment.

Moving to take up the scholarship in Louisville was a big decision, there was a local link as Douglas native Aaron O’Callaghan was one of the senior coaches and he had been keeping a close eye on the Kinsale man.

Still, Murphy had to make the choice and it wasn’t a simple decision.

“Yeah, there were loads of pros and cons I had to weigh up, but I knew that if I wanted to try and make a career out of golf, then I had to drastically improve.

“I felt moving and a change of environment was going to be the best way for me to do that and I knew it would be an incredible experience either way.”

Murphy had a tough enough start when he joined the Louisville programme. As well as being a newcomer on the team, he was also suffering from a recurring knee injury which ultimately required surgery in late 2017.

He bounced back from that quickly but it was a setback that could have shook his confidence.

“Funnily enough, I never once questioned whether I should have moved or not,” said Murphy.

“I could feel myself improving and learning more about myself as time went on.

“I was also having such a great time enjoying the college experience that the slow start didn’t really dampen my spirits.”

John Murphy showed his class on the US circuit.
John Murphy showed his class on the US circuit.

Working with his coach Ian Stafford, the pair were in weekly contact, chatting through the courses, the strategy and of course management.

They also reviewed every tournament allowing Murphy to keep in touch with the person who first coached him over ten years ago.

Showing a great level of maturity, Murphy has dealt with several temporary setbacks and hasn’t allowed himself to get caught up in the short term.

“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s a process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint so as long as I have trust in what I’m doing and as long as I believe it will make me a better player in the long run, then I’m fine with it.”

And John will have to use that mindset as competitive golf is still over a month away.

The GUI indicated that championships will return in the middle of July, but a large number of men's events have been cancelled with a few taking place in September and October.

Having built a full schedule for the summer, Murphy is now in holding mode.

“The plan was to play a full schedule, such as European Amateur and British Amateur. Unfortunately everything has been either postponed or cancelled so it’s a bit tough to tell what my first event will be.

“I’m just trying to stay on top of things in my game for now and keep everything in check. I’ve done some swing work in the net and I’ve been trying to stay active and get a bit stronger.”

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