THE 2021 Walker Cup – amateur golf’s version of the Ryder Cup, with Great Britain & Ireland taking on the USA – wasn’t originally on John Murphy’s radar, but he is excited to be chosen for next month’s event at Seminole GC in Florida.
The Kinsale golfer had been meant to finish his marketing course at the University of Louisville in 2020, but in the wake of Covid-19 and the cancellation of events, final-year students were given the opportunity to compete again in the 2020-21 academic year.
Having come close to being chosen for the 2019 Walker Cup, Murphy is happy to have made the most of his second chance.
‘In 2019, I would have probably been one of the front-runners at the start of the year,’ he says.
‘That year just didn’t go well for me unfortunately, and I wasn’t sure if I would still be amateur by the time of the next Walker Cup.
‘I hadn’t really thought about it too much but, as time went on and I realised that I would still be amateur. I didn’t want to think about it too much but it was something that was certainly at the back of my mind.
‘There were certain tournaments that I was going to, knowing that they were going to be more important than other tournaments had been in the past for me. It’s certainly something that I was confident of – I knew that I was able to play under pressure when I needed to and thankfully I did at the right times.
‘I’m glad that I can see the rewards for that now.’
A huge honor to be selected for the Walker Cup. Thank you to everyone for the kind messages of support. Can’t wait to take on the USA in May! https://t.co/7JPipGFPzX
— John Murphy (@john_murphy5) March 30, 2021
Obviously, while a dip in form is never nice at the time, Murphy made sure that it was a learning experience for him.
‘Yeah, 100 percent,’ he says.
‘I think I based 2019 off the Walker Cup and putting so much emphasis on particular events so that I could make the team. What I did a lot better this time was just focus on the present a lot more and stayed mindful of that.
‘I certainly went to tournaments knowing that they were going to be important and that I had to play well, but the best way to do that is to still take it one shot at a time and stay present. Thankfully, I managed that very well this year and I managed my expectations very well.
‘I never really got on a bad run of form. If I had a bad tournament or a bad day, I bounced back pretty well and that was certainly important for me.
‘When you’re on a bad run and you’re playing poorly, you think, “I could shoot 80 here if I’m not careful.” Thoughts like that certainly run through your mind, but it’s just a matter of trying to teach yourself and trying to get over those road-blocks because they do no good for you.
‘It’s just a case of practice and being able to deal with it more over time, to learn more about it and learn more about yourself. Being more aware of yourself has been very important for me, it has allowed me to be a lot more mindful on the golf course and a lot more self-aware.
‘That has been very important for me moving forward as a player.’
With the Walker Cup taking place in the US – at Seminole in Florida on May 8th and 9th – Murphy, as part of the ten-man Great Britain and Ireland team, is hopeful that he can put the experience of his playing his college golf there to good use.
‘The Americans are always going to be tough to beat on home soil,’ he says.
‘They’re always very strong and they’ll certainly be favourites going into the match, but I have built up a bit of experience over here and taken them on in the past.
‘I’d be confident enough in my ability to stand up against any of them and go head-to-head and I’m sure the rest of the team will as well. It’s one thing getting selected for the team, that’s a huge achievement, the next thing now is to try to be part of a winning Walker Cup team.
‘That would certainly be very special, so I’m just really excited to get down to Seminole.’
And does he enjoy the different nature of team golf?
‘I know the team here very well and I know most of the players,’ Murphy says.
‘It’s a weird game – in matchplay, anything can happen and I’d like to say that I think it’ll help us, but who knows?
‘I think it’s just going to be a matter of who shows up and who rises to the occasion. From a team’s perspective, I know the team very well. I’ve played with Mark Power since I was a kid and it’s really cool to get the opportunity to play with him again.
‘I’m just excited to be part of such a great bunch of lads and looking forward to getting down there and be part of it all.’
A week after the Walker Cup, the Byron Nelson Classic takes place and Murphy has an invitation for that, having won the Byron Nelson Award last year. However, it will be the 2022 event he plays in as he focuses on finishing his amateur career on a high.
‘They’ve allowed me to delay that invitation if I want to, until I become professional,’ he says.
‘I’m going to go ahead and do that and I’ll probably play most of my golf in Europe over the summer when I turn professional.
‘The national championship is on here at the end of May and that’ll likely be my last time playing amateur golf. Again, who knows, if I go back and things aren’t ready to go for pro golf, I’ll play in a few amateur events.
‘As I said, it’s a matter of staying in the present for now – it’s kind of hard to determine where the next move is going to be.’