LAST Thursday week is definitely a day that will live in the memory of Kinsale golfer John Murphy.
A student at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, Murphy is in the final year of a marketing degree while also playing a key role for the college’s golf team.
He was targeting a strong end to the season before exploring a tilt at the professional ranks, but the abrupt cancellation of activities due to Covid-19 looked to have ended his college career. There is likely to be light at the end of the tunnel, but the events of Thursday remain a shock.
‘It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,’ he says.
‘Last Thursday, we were to head from Atlanta to Louisiana for a tournament due to start on Monday of this week.
‘We woke in the morning and things were fine, then it went from flying to Louisiana to having to drive there. A couple of hours later, the tournament in Louisiana is cancelled. A few hours after that, our next couple of tournaments were suspended and then it was, “Alright lads, you’re done, the NCAA has cancelled the season.”
‘Our immediate reaction to that was shock, to be honest. There are four of us here that are seniors, so that was our college careers over. We have a strong team at the moment and we were disappointed that we didn’t even get a chance to show that.
‘It’s all we do over here, try to play golf, practise and prepare for tournaments, it’s all geared towards the national championships, that few weeks of post-season.
‘Obviously, I know that there are more important things in life than sports, but it was a tough one to take, to be honest, knowing that we were done at the University of Louisville and we wouldn’t show how good we are as a team. That was a bitter pill to swallow.’
However, it has since emerged that this year’s seniors are likely to be offered an extra year’s eligibility. Murphy, the winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2018 and the Mullingar Scratch Cup last year, is happy to have that option, especially as the PGA Tour’s qualifying school is likely to be affected.
‘If I wanted to play next year, I think I’d be able to take it,’ he says.
‘That’s a nice thing to have to consider. There are four seniors and we don’t want to be done. We were ready to compete and we had been playing really well, so none of us wanted to finish up.
‘We’re excited at the prospect of getting to play another year here. I’ll have to talk about it with my parents and my coach to see what they think the best decision is. I’m going to have to weigh up the options.
‘My plan was to go to Q-school and look into pro golf when I got my degree, but I don’t even know if that’s an option now as it’s looking like that might be cancelled.
‘Like everything else, it’s so up in the air at the moment. Nobody knows what’s going on. I’ll probably just take it day by day from here on and see what happens.
‘It’s just a situation that none of us are used to and nobody was prepared for. I think, ultimately, the decisions that are being made are the right ones. Public health is more important than any sport.’
Murphy had been showing good form since returning to America after spending Christmas in Ireland.
‘Everything was going well,’ he says.
‘I’ve only had three tournaments so far this year with the team, I won one down in Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, there were 90-something playing there. There was another one in Alabama and I came fourth in that one.
‘We were playing well, we had a bit of momentum going and then things finished just like that, but when it comes to people’s safety, I’ve no problem taking a step back.’
As for now, things are uncertain, but he is phlegmatic.
‘Our classes have moved online for the next three weeks,’ he says.
‘We’re due to have exams after that but if they’re cancelled or moved online, technically I’m finished now, I could go home and do the exams from there.
‘I don’t know if that’s what I’m going to do, the weather is good here so I don’t know if I’ll take advantage of that and the facilities here or if I’ll want to go home and practise there.
‘Things have changed so much and I don’t know if that’s going to stay the case. I’m just going to take a step back and relax about the situation, there are enough people panicking about it.
‘Obviously, if there’s something I can do here to help anyone in Louisville, I’ll do it. I know that there are steps being taken to assist elderly people back home and I’m going to try to look after a few people here that I know and make sure they’re okay.
‘That’s all we can do right now to try to improve the situation.’