If John Murphy’s three years at the University of Louisville have taught him something other than the degree in marketing he has just completed, it has been to focus only on things he can control. It is a mindset coming in particularly handy for the Kinsale golfer in the current climate.
When Covid-19 arrived on campus almost five months ago it threatened to play havoc with the objectives on Murphy’s to-do list. With the 2019-20 collegiate season cancelled, the senior was denied a final shot at the NCAA national championship that his excellent form to that point had suggested he was a contender while the abandonment of classes threatened to delay the completion of his studies.
Yet by the time Murphy arrived back home in Co. Cork to avoid the US lockdown, things were looking a lot brighter. His classes went online and he is now in possession of a major in marketing while the NCAA, the powers that be in US collegiate sport, granted college seniors an extra year’s competitive eligibility. And for an added bonus, Murphy picked up the prestigious Byron Nelson Award for 2020, recognising him as the standout college golfer on and off the course.
Now all he has to do is find a way to get back to the USA to start putting all the pieces back together. A flight is booked for July 15 and a place in the US Amateur Championship awaits in August but US travel restrictions make it one of the issues he is powerless to alter.
“I’m hoping to go back to college if I can get back into the country, that’s my next step.
“There’s not much I can do about that right now so I’m just trying to see what happens but it’s certainly a bit of a weird situation.”
The long-term plan is to turn professional but that mantra of only controlling the controllables applies to that decision to return to college and extend both his studies and competitive amateur career while life on Tour recalibrates in the wake of the pandemic.
“I’m young and not in any rush to turn professional so I don’t feel hard done by in the sense that I can’t turn pro. I feel like time is on my side and hopefully I’ve got a long road ahead of me in the game and I’m not under any pressure at the moment to turn pro.
“Over the last few years I’ve been getting a lot better, just having the perfect facilities and the perfect opportunities to improve as a player so I decided that while professional golf was on hold, why not avail of that and try and keep getting better and get my game as ready as possible for professional golf. I think it’s the right decision, I’ve had a lot of conversations about it with friends and family and there’s certainly no question that it will be for the benefit of my golf to go back.
“It was a fairly easy decision in the end. I’m just trying to get my game up another level and get ready for the professional game.”
Murphy, who moved to Louisville after a year as a Paddy Harrington scholar at Maynooth University, has found playing golf college has both pros and cons in terms of a future pro career.
“It’s been amazing. It gives you an insight into what life on tour is like. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re going through good days and bad days.
“Everybody’s able to see the pictures we put up after we win a tournament or go to really nice places but there’s very few people that see you after you’ve had a bad finish in a tournament or make a double-bogey at the last to cost you 20 places. The only people who go through those moments with you are your parents, your coach, and the people closest to you. They’re the toughest moments but it’s a matter of learning to adapt to moments like that because it’s very easy to get bogged down in the game of golf, it’s such a mental game, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in that regard in the last couple of years.”
The downside is the inbuilt support system a university golf team provides in the pursuit of collective success.
“Yeah, we’re spoonfed. All we have to do is show up at an airport at a certain time and from there until we get back to Louisville, all our meals are paid for, we have breakfast put in front of us, we’re told to be in reception at a certain time each morning and everything is just put in front of us, it’s a very easy system for us and thankfully we’ve been able to make the most of it for the last few years.
“That will probably be one harsh reality of coming out of college and turning professional, having to cater for yourself a lot more. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for that but still enjoying the spoon-feeding while I still have it.”