THERE were lots of celebrations in Kinsale last week when news emerged that John Murphy had been selected for the Walker Cup next month.
Murphy becomes just the fifth Cork golfer to make it to the Walker Cup. Friends and family bombarded the 22-year-old with messages of congratulations, he was one of just two Irish golfers to make the GB&I team which plays the US team in Florida next month.
Among those who were delighted with the news was Ian Stafford who has coached John since he started the game.
“I’m absolutely delighted for John, the run of form John has been on lately in a pressurised situation has shown how he has matured as a golfer and there is a great feeling of redemption in getting selected for the team in Seminole,” said Stafford who has coached John for close to a decade.
“Although this is not the first time John will have represented GB&I it is the final and biggest box ticked in terms of amateur achievements and a testament to the hard and smart work John has put in.
"The emotions we are feeling now are a million miles from what we felt two years ago driving away from Portmarnock after missing the cut at the Amateur Championship which pretty much ended his chances of selection then.”
Although John has been in the US for three years, technology has allowed Stafford to work closely with his student, and when John is at home the work intensifies.
“We had two very good periods over the summer and the Christmas break between level 5 restrictions to put in some hard work, John is at a point now where he knows his game and his technique pretty well and can recognise the need to make any adjustments himself which is where you need to be to play at the levels he is playing at.
"Being in the states has allowed John to stay competitive and test his game against the best amateurs in the world and there is no substitute for that.
"John has had the opportunity to play Seminole three times over the last few weeks and it’s a golf course that John will feel right at home at with his ability to flight the ball to deal with the winds coming off the ocean at Juno Beach.”
Murphy’s last trip to Seminole a few weeks ago led to a chance encounter with Masters winner Fred Couples. He was playing ahead of the seasoned tour pro and he had a coffee and a chat with Couples after the round.
As part of the successful Kinsale junior golf programme, John got a great grounding in the game. He’s picked up his fair share of trophies over the past six years, starting with the Kerry Boys in Ballybunion in 2015.
He repeated that win a year later, as well as winning the Munster Boys title. 2017 brought more silverware in the form of the Munster Students title and the Leinster Students title.
Murphy’s first international win came in 2018 when he won the St Andrew’s Links Trophy, after a quiet first year in the University of Louisville Murphy was having a quiet 2019, and while he was playing well he wasn’t posting results.
That changed in August when playing his last Irish event before returning to the US. Murphy put together four great rounds to win the famous Mullingar Scratch Trophy.
His good form continued when he returned to Lousiville. His first win in the US came in October 2019, winning the Bearcat Invitational in Cincinnati.
He posted a 17 under par total, including a particularly impressive 63 in his final round. Another win followed in early 2020, he won the Dorado Beach Collegiate before Covid closed down the season.
After returning to Ireland in late March it was a quiet Summer for Murphy, there was no competitive golf for over five months.
With the Walker Cup at the back of his mind, Murphy returned to Kentucky in August and made the most of the limited fall schedule.
He picked up three top tens and a win in the GCAA Amateur series events and an all-important top ten at the Jones Cup in Georgia.
With most of the GB&I and American Walker Cup squads playing, it was an important signal that the Kinsale man was up there with the best of them. Two further top tens followed and when the team was selected last week, Murphy got the call he had been waiting for.
“It’s obviously a dream come true to be selected,” said a delighted Murphy after the news was announced.
“Never since the day I took up golf did I ever think this would actually happen.
Murphy has played the course in Seminole a few times and he’s a fan of the Donald Ross-designed course.
“Seminole is a treat,” added the three-time US winner.
“It’s such a unique place. I actually love the golf course and I played very well when I went down there, so hopefully, I can carry that mindset into the match.
"We’re going to be obvious underdogs but I’m looking forward to going head to head with them down in Seminole and trying to get that Walker Cup back to GB&I.”
John’s parents Carmel and Owen and his sister Faye were delighted to get the call from John last week.
Having missed out on selection in 2019, the family were delighted that John made it for 2021.
Having watched John playing at events all over Ireland and in the US, both Carmel and Owen will miss out on the Walker Cup due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“We’re devastated that we can’t travel with the current restrictions,” said Carmel.
"However the most important thing it that John will be there. He’s relishing the opportunity and really appreciates his selection on the team.”
Before that Murphy has some important business to close out with Louisville.
The Cardinals are in action this weekend at the Aggie Invitational in Texas and the following week they play in the ACC Championship in Georgia. After that, it’s the NCAA Regionals and hopefully, that will lead to a spot in the NCAA Finals at the end of May.
The Cardinals have seen their ranking rise over the past two seasons and with Murphy, Devin Morley, Hugh O’Hare and European Amateur champion Matthias Schmid all finishing this year, the hope that the group can finish on a high.
While Murphy has previously confirmed that turning pro is on the cards, he has no immediate plans beyond the NCAA season end in June. Whatever his plans are for the summer, there’s sure to be a big celebration in Kinsale when he returns.