Friday 24 November 2017

Murphy bids to rise in East

Gary Murphy finds himself on the outside looking in at his former colleagues on the European Tour
Gary Murphy finds himself on the outside looking in at his former colleagues on the European Tour
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Gary Murphy, golf pro. Have passport, will travel.

In fact, it's a case of must travel far from his home base in Baltray, Louth to the other side of the world in search of gainful employment.

That's just the outer journey, which will take Murphy to the Far East, where he has gained playing rights on the OneAsia Tour for 2011.

The inner journey, the one to his core foundation of self-belief in his prowess as a golfer, is more important to Murphy's future.

At age 38, married with a young child, Murphy finds himself on the outside looking in at his former colleagues on the European Tour. It's not a nice place to be. Life is challenging enough on the main Tour, where those with their card safe for 2011 have already been in action playing in regular events that offered around €13.5m in prize money.

Most recently, 64 of the elite players in the world got to spend last week chasing a share of the €6m on offer in the WGC-Accenture World Match Play.

warning

Nice work, if you can get it. Right now, Murphy can't, so he has to relaunch a career which saw him as a Tour regular between 2003 and 2010, inclusive. Perhaps he was receiving an amber warning light when 2009 ended, with Murphy missing his card by around €25,000.

A trip to the final stage of Tour School followed, one which the Kilkenny-born golfer negotiated successfully; 2010, however, was a different matter. The stats tell one part of the story: 27 events played, €19,152 in earnings, 227th place on the Race to Dubai rankings.

A shock to the system, right? Oh yeah. Another trip to Tour School, this time without success, last December. Who would want to be a professional golfer in that situation?

Murphy went home to Baltray with some deep thinking to do. His first solution was a trip to Mission Hills in China, where he entered the OneAsia Tour School in January. This is a Tour founded in 2009 which has piqued the regular Asian Tour authorities, but it is supported by the Korean, Australasia and Chinese professional ruling bodies.

The OneAsia Tour offers 13 tournaments this year, with an average prize fund of $1m. Murphy finished leading Irishman at Tour School and got a card for the year.

Leading Irishman? "Yes. I was, because I was the only Irishman," said Murphy, showing he hasn't lost his deadpan sense of humour. The important fact is that it's a place to play, an chance to earn money and an opportunity to regain confidence.

Murphy also hopes to get a few Challenge Tour outings, but his first tournament in Asia will be in Indonesia, starting on March 24.

The question arises as to where it all went wrong as Murphy went from a solid "card winner" -- as he put it -- to losing his playing rights on the European Tour.

"I think it was a build-up of things. I struggled with equipment at the start of last season. Then I started looking in the wrong places for answers," he said. "I decided to try changing my swing a bit, which was a detrimental decision to make, and I lost confidence through that really.

"I kind of went from being a natural player to being a technical player, and I just lost it. The harder I tried to fix things, the worse it got. My confidence was shot to pieces and bad things seem to happen when things are going that way."

enviable

Too often it was a case of Murphy's Law rather than Murphy's Game. For example, he talks about playing in Gleneagles last year, taking an enviable 23 putts in the round, and finishing one over par. At the recent OneAsia Tour school in round one, he hit a good drive on the second hole, a par-four, then hit the green with his second shot -- and took eight.

"I'm kind of going, 'there's devils chasing me down here'. But I got my head down and finished seven-under for the tournament." he said

The key now is regaining confidence and getting back to shot making and trusting in himself to find the answers.

"I've always been pretty upbeat and happy-go-lucky in my approach, but it's as if I've gone into a dark room for the last 12 months," he said.

"It's still only a 40-watt bulb, but my game has come around a bit. I've definitely seen a lot more of the things I want to see in it, but my confidence is still a little fragile.

"For the past two months I've been trying to get back to just playing golf, because I had got way too far into the technique. I was always someone who played a lot of golf, played money games, and fed off that, and then I started going on the range and looking for answers there.

"I'm trying to get away from that. Just trying to play a lot and to build confidence from shooting scores."

He has the goodwill of the Irish golfing community, receiving encouragement and help from, among others, Des Smyth.

"In the last couple of months Des has been great," Murphy said. "We've played a good bit together, which is good practice as well. I won't know exactly how my game is until I get into the action, but I think the Asian route mightn't be a bad thing for a while."

Irish Independent

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