Golf’s professional ranks hold no fears for Cork man John Murphy

‘I’m just trying to take each tournament as it comes which is important at this point’

John Murphy has hit the ground running in moving from amateur to professional. File photograph: Getty

Build a prototype of a complete golfer and likely John Murphy would fit many of the parts. Young, fit and strong. Tick! Good driver. Tick! Good putter. Tick! Iron play. Tick! Solid wedge game. Tick! Oh, and with his red hair, cleanly shaven at the sides and with neat curls atop, the Cork man stands out from the crowd, which is no bad thing in the world of professional golf.

This week, Murphy is in Pebble Beach on the Californian shoreline for the AT&T Pro-Am for a debut appearance on the PGA Tour – playing on a sponsor's invitation in the €7.75 million tournament – and, for a player who turned professional less than a year ago after a stellar amateur career, one that featured a Walker Cup appearance along with international honours for Ireland, as well as graduating from the University of Louisville with impressive academic and playing CVs, it's fair to say he has hit the ground running in transitioning from amateur to professional.

Murphy, remember, made an impact playing on invites on tour last season, a top-10 finish in the Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour and, then, a third place finish in the Emporda Challenge which secured a card on the Challenge Tour for 2022, a circuit that will be his main focus in his bid to secure a full DP World Tour card for next season.

Invitations like the one to Pebble Beach – and also to the Byron Nelson in May – are in bonus territory. But there is no inferiority complex. Murphy is aware more than anyone that opportunities, when they come along, are there to be grasped and his preparation for this week's tournament involved an advance visit to play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula (the three courses used in the tournament) while also getting to play the Olympic Club.


“So much can change in a week, you saw that last year at the Dunhill, I got tagged in a few things saying if I finished in the top four or five I’d get a full European Tour card. I’m just trying to take each tournament as it comes which is important at this point because I don’t like to get too caught up in the whole ranking side of things until the season is over.”

Murphy – a keen hurler in his youth before golf became his sporting direction of choice – is in a comfort zone, relishing the journey ahead: “Growing up, you hear about how good the guys on tour are and you are watching TV every week and you are seeing good shot after good shot because they are showing highlights obviously. I think you are getting a bit of a false impression as to what professional golf is like. People think professional golfers don’t hit bad shots, that they are flawless.

“But I am lucky enough to have played with some of the best players last year [in the Dunhill Links] and I realised it is not a matter of hitting good shot after good shot, it is also a matter of if you can hit less bad shots out on tour; so it gave me comfort knowing that, certainly when I played with them I didn’t feel like I was that far behind at all. And the gaps are very minute at this point, so it is just trying to close those gaps in any way possible is what it is all about.”

Sharpening all the tools

With his coach Ian Stafford in California with him for this week's tournaments, Murphy has prepared diligently and with purpose: "I don't feel my game has any particular weakness. But I also feel like every aspect of it could get a little bit stronger, so it's just a matter of sharpening all the tools, getting everything as sharp as possible.

“I’ve noticed all the best players just seem to be so tidy, no real blunders or looseness in their game. They’re all very dead on straight off the tee and I think that’s certainly an unreal aspect of golf now, how straight you can hit it off the tee because everyone talks about distance and how far all the good guys hit it, but they also hit it straight. I would be very confident of my ability to drive the golf ball. I gain strokes off the tee in the vast majority of rounds I play. If I can get every other aspect of my game as good as my driving, I will be just fine.”

  • John Murphy was speaking at the launch of the new Golf Ireland five-year strategic plan titled, "Golf For Everyone".
Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times