After top Kinsale golfer John Murphy picked up a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly award for June, DENIS HURLEY got his thoughts on a successful summer
WHILE John Murphy’s interest in the Irish Amateur Close Championship ended with a last-32 defeat on Monday, it has still been a hugely successful summer for the Kinsale golfer.
The 20-year-old heads back to the University of Louisville next week after picking up the St Andrews Links Trophy as well as reaching the quarter-finals of the British Amateur Championship and representing Great Britain & Ireland as he seeks to stake a claim for a Walker Cup place in 2019.
Not only that, he was presented with a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly award for June in honour of his achievements this summer.
In the Amateur Close at the European Club in Wicklow, Murphy qualified for the matchplay section after two rounds of strokeplay but following a 7&6 win over Gary Cullen in the first round of the matchplay, he was unlucky to come up against Gary O’Flaherty.
The Douglas man won the Irish Amateur Open Championship in 2017 and was seeking to become the first man since Pádraig Harrington in 1995 to win both the open and close, overcoming Murphy 3&1.
Nevertheless, Murphy is pleased with how things have gone since he arrived home.
‘Yeah, absolutely,’ he says, ‘it has all been a blur really, it’s gone so quick. It seems like only last week that I came home for the summer but I’m not complaining.
‘It has opened a lot of doors, thankfully. Even in the tournaments where I wasn’t doing well, I still felt like I was playing well. I knew I’d get the results if I stayed patient and just saw what happened and thankfully it has paid off.’
The win at St Andrews, where he overcame Germany’s Jannik de Bruyn in a play-off, was the stand-out, both in terms of its own importance and what it led to.
‘That was huge, it really did a lot for me,’ Murphy says.
‘It opened a few doors in terms of making teams and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward.
‘I went from that into the British Amateur and made it to the quarter-final. It was a huge stepping-stone, really.
‘I knew there was a guy at nine-under when I was playing the 14th hole. I was nine-under at that point but the closing stretch is really difficult and I did really well to make the pars coming in there.
‘I had a birdie chance at 18 to get to minus-ten but I missed and it ended up going into a play-off back down the first.
‘He hit it into about eight feet and I hit mine to about 25 feet but but I held mine and he missed, so it felt good.’
Playing at the home of golf can be daunting, but it was something Murphy embraced.
‘I remember playing it on my PlayStation when I was younger,’ he says.
‘I always remember watching Tiger Woods and the likes playing it on TV and thinking it’d be really cool to play there some day.
‘I suppose it was a bit different, but the practice round is the time to admire it and take it all in. Once I had to tee off in the tournament, it was a different story, you had to treat it like any other tournament.
‘There was no time for messing around once the competition began, you just had to focus and shoot the best score you could.’
The last-eight finish at the British Amateur followed after that while he was involved as GB&I lost to the Continent of Europe in the St Andrews Trophy in Finland. Nevertheless, it has laid down a huge marker for next year’s Walker Cup, rather impressive considering his relatively late introduction to golf.
‘I was pretty late starting,’ he says, ‘I was probably 12 or 13.
‘I played GAA and other sports and didn’t really have much of an interest in golf at an early age.’
‘My friend Gary Ward took me out in Kinsale for the first time and I went from there.
‘When I was 15 or 16, I began to play a lot of tournaments and my handicap dropped quickly.
‘Things have been gradually getting better since then. I was off six when I was 16 and within a year I was scratch.’
After a year in Maynooth studying entrepreneurship, he opted to switch to Kentucky.
‘I transferred over to America after first year and I’m doing marketing here,’ he says.
‘It’s made a lot easier because we’re on such a routine. We get up early every morning and we go to the gym, go to class, go play golf and it’s very structured and easy to follow.
‘It’s not that difficult to balance. The days are busy and there’s a lot of hard work, but it’s enjoyable.’
Murphy’s ball-striking is an area which has seen an improvement since his move.
‘Certainly, my long game has got better,’ he says.
‘I changed my swing a little bit, nothing too serious but I’m certainly hitting the ball a lot better now than I was this time last year.
‘That helps a lot, when you’re giving yourself a lot more chances to get birdies.
‘I find the courses over there are more difficult, so that helps when I come back home, I find them a bit easier than what I would have this time last year.
‘I think it gave me a lot of confidence coming back, knowing that I’d be playing slightly easier courses.’
He flies back to America on August 17th to prepare for upcoming events in September. Beyond that, he is optimistic.
‘I’m going to get my degree in the next two years and try to keep getting better and we’ll see after that,’ he says.
‘The plan is to give it a go after college and try to get on tour. Having the degree means I can go out and give it a go without being too stressed about what happens afterwards, it’s a good back-up.
‘I’ll probably move back to Ireland for a few years and try to get on the European Tour and see what happens after that. If you do well enough on that, you go on to the PGA Tour anyway but there’s a long way to go anyway, I’ll be making some of those decisions closer to the time.’