Seminole’s greens might be running at a hair-raising 14 on the stimpmeter but Kinsale’s John Murphy has is not fazed as he prepares to make his Walker Cup debut in sweltering 90-degree heat in Florida tomorrow.
The University of Louisville star (22) is bracing himself for “carnage” on the links as Great Britain and Ireland bid to end a 20-year wait for glory on US soil and claim what would be only their third away win in the event’s 100-year history.
The visitors have not managed to claim a Walker Cup in the US since the likes of Michael Hoey, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty shocked the Americans 15-9 at Sea Island in Georgia in 2001, 12 years after Garth McGimpsey and Eoghan O’Connell made history with that historic breakthrough win at Peachtree in Atlanta in 1989.
But while this year’s American side is bursting with talent — all 10 players were ranked inside the top 23 in the world at the time of selection — Murphy and the rest of the GB&I side, captained by Scotland’s Stuart Wilson (43), have high hopes that they can reverse a losing trend having fallen by a combined 52.5-25.5 in the last three away matches.
“It's certainly going to add an element of excitement I would say to the Walker Cup,” Murphy said of the frighteningly firm and fast greens on Juno Beach. “None of us are used to it. I'd say a lot of tour pros aren't even used to it, and then adding wind on top of that slope and green quickness is going to be pretty interesting.
Widely expected to partner Kilkenny’s Mark Power in the foursomes, Murphy and the rest of the squad got a pre-tournament pep talk from winning 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley on Wednesday and while they were tightlipped on his advice, they know that dealing with fast greens and getting off to a fast start will be the keys to getting some momentum.
Murphy and team mate Angus Flanagan did not even get to play that day as they were suffering the effects of suspected food poisoning. But Murphy rallied to attend McGinley’s pep talk and he’ll to be 100% ready for action tomorrow.
Windswept Seminole is not a long course but the wind is always a factor and with the greens faster than PGA Tour speed and getting faster as the wind blows, the visitors know the Americans will not be trying to slow the course down.
Skipper Wilson knows Power well having captained him twice at Under 18 level in the Jacques Leglise Trophy.
But he has also been impressed by Murphy, who is expected to turn professional after the collegiate season with Louisville.
“I met John for the first time this week and instantly hit it off with him on a relationship basis,” said Wilson, who does not rule out an Irish foursomes partnership.
"Often as captain it seems a little bit of a cop-out to pair up players from the same home nations, but we are in that position where we've got a lot of good golfers that can play together.
“For one reason for another yesterday Joe Long and Mark played together in a little series of foursomes that we did, and they played fantastic. These guys can all come together and play with one another and play to their strengths, and they get on well. But it wouldn't surprise me if you saw them as a pairing over the weekend.”
As for winning on US soil, Great Britain and Ireland’s preparations have been badly hit by COVID-19. But with many of the side based in the US, he’s got high hopes and good memories of his own Walker Cup win, albeit on home soil at Ganton in 2003.
“Nothing is impossible,” the Scot said. “We know it's always a very difficult match and the history books tell us so, but it's not impossible.” He added: “We know there's only been two teams that have been successful over here. Again, which shows it's not impossible. But we've had a look at the numbers, and yeah, there's been 310 Walker Cup players, 84 of those have played on winning sides but only 20 have played on a winning side in America. We're trying to make that 30 basically. Yeah, the guys are up for it, without a doubt.”