Gary Murphy with his mother Ann Murphy with family members at the unveiling of a memorial plaque to the late JD Murphy at Kilkenny Golf Club Picture: Michael Brophy
As golfers nationwide get back into the swing of things, I caught up with Kilkenny’s Gary Murphy on his love of the game, his days on tour and if he had any golf tips to share.
Gary is a former professional golfer from the European Tour. He now plies his trade as a sports pundit and golf commentator for Sky Sports, the European Tour Productions, and 2FM’s Game On, as well as writing for the Irish Mirror.
Gary began playing golf aged 11, after caddying for his late father Jim, affectionately known in Kilkenny as JD. JD Murphy was also a legend and will be remembered for playing an instrumental role in the development of young golfers in Kilkenny.
Gary went on to win the Irish Amateur Close Championship in 1992 before turning professional in 1995. He has given his fans years of enjoyment, as many followed him around the golf courses of Europe, and he himself enjoyed many top ten finishes.
Gary played in many Mayors and top European tour events, while retaining his tour card for 10 years - an achievement in itself.
One special memory that all Irish golf fans will remember is that Sunday afternoon in 2008, as he led the Irish Open in Adare Manor.
Another highlight of his career, a couple of years previous, was when he was just tipped to secure a win at the Scottish Open, finishing third on the day.
Today, Gary lives in County Louth, beside the beautiful Baltray Golf Links with his wife Elaine and their two children.
Here is a glimpse into Gary’s world…
Do you miss playing the game professionally and been on tour?
Not really, I still play a few pro ams for fun, but I wouldn’t miss playing on tour. I had my time, it is what it was and there is not much benefit looking back and harping on what could have been. I have regrets about certain things, but that is life. It was a wonderful thing to do and I consider myself very lucky to have played sport for a living.
You starting playing professional golf at the age of 23. What advice would you have for any young golfer thinking about going down the professional road?
Firstly, you need to be realistic. It is a very tough way to earn a living so you must have a solid amateur career with some big wins to justify the move. Trust the game that got you there and try and improve as you did through the amateur scene from boys’ golf to the senior team.
The step up to getting established on a main tour takes time, so don’t be in a rush and want it all yesterday.
The improvement needed is not all swing related; many make that mistake. Have a good plan for stepping up the levels and believe in yourself - that is the one vital ingredient all the top players possess.
In 2008, you led the Irish Open on the Sunday in Adare Manor, in front of a boisterous home crowd and finished third. How good did that feel?
It was great - one of the best buzzes I have had in the game. I actually holed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole and thought it might give me a chance to win so that was gratifying, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to win. You need a slice of luck to get over the line also.
The Irish Open was always special for me. I played it from 1993 to 2011, just missing a couple in between so it was always special to play at home.
That particular year it was Rory’s first chance as a pro to win and he got off to a slow start in the final round and all his crowd came back to my game so the buzz was awesome. I knew he would eventually go on to win one day but it was nice to say I finished ahead of him that week!
You commentate for Sky Sports among others on the European Tour. Does that take you away from home a lot?
Not as much as when I played. I think 37 weeks away was the most I did one year - I don’t recommend that. But now with the TV work I do about 12 to 15 week away from home. I really have no idea how that will be affected with Covid-19 but I will hopefully be able to continue to travel as I have been on the road since I was 15 and still enjoy it.
Who is your favourite golfer and why?
Jordan Spieth is probably my favourite but he is struggling for form at moment. He is a little quirky and I like that.
What the best course you have ever played in the world?
Kingston Heath in Melbourne, Australia. It is the best place in the world for golf, or the sandbelt area as it is known.
What was the highlight of your career?
Winning the Irish Amateur in 1992 was my amateur highlight.
In the pros it was the two tournaments wins, one in the Philippines in 1997 on the Asian Tour and the Azores Open in 2005. Plus playing in the Open Championship in ’97 and ’03. Playing in a major championship is a special experience and will always stay with me.
What is the best shot you have ever taken?
Seven iron on the 72 hole at Lock Lomond in the ’03 Scottish Open.
There was a lot on the line and it was a tricky pin in over a bunker from 179 yards. I hit it right down the flag to about 10 feet to finish fourth. I won the biggest cheque of my career and got into the Open Championship the following week.
Golfers are back on the golf courses of Ireland. Any tips - mental or physical - to avoid injuries after weeks of no game?
For the mental realise that it is your hobby and always remember that the game is to be enjoyed no matter what the outcome. The game owes you nothing so don’t expect it and you will never be too hard on yourself.
Physical - I think if you spend some time stretching and using a foam roller before you play is probably better to hitting shots if time is against you. It is amazing how just 10 minutes in the locker room before you play can help your mobility more than 10 minutes hitting shots.
There are plenty of on line sources to give you simple ideas, but the ETPI on Twitter are very helpful.
Your late father, Jim Murphy was hugely involved in Kilkenny Golf Club – always helping the young teenage golfers in the club. He left some legacy.
He did not only with the Golf Club but also with Evergreen Football Club which was his first love before golf. He was a great Dad. He loved golf and Kilkenny Golf Club, serving as Captain and President and many years on Committee.
He never had an opportunity to play the game growing up. He felt it his responsibility that if young kids wanted to join the club or play the game he would be the facilitator. He just wanted kids to have the opportunity that was not afforded to him.
As a family we are very grateful to Kilkenny Golf for the beautiful memorial plaque that is on the practice ground. It is lovely that he will always be remembered as he loved seeing the young kids learning the game it gave him such joy.
Follow Gary Murphy on Twitter @Garymurphy62