Pat Murphy on creating a golfing dynasty that produces world class talent

Pat Murphy overseeing the swing of a young Seamus Power - Image provided by Golf Ireland

By Daragh Small, Golf Ireland.

A young affable chap turned up at West Waterford Golf Club, he was a sports fanatic but his early years had been dedicated to GAA and Pat Murphy could not have expected much on that first encounter.

Celia Walsh had asked Murphy to take a look at Seamus Power. It was as if she knew there was something special about to unfold, and it only took a few minutes for everything to become clear.

It was raw talent, something only the greats are born with and although plenty of hard work was needed to hone his skills, there was no doubt that this 12-year-old would be given every chance.

“Celia rang me one day and said: ‘would you mind if I bring a lad out to the golf course to have a look at him’,” said Murphy.

“She brought along Seamus; he was only young at the time. He was big into racquetball and hurling and football. I took him to the practice ground anyway.

“I said to Seamus: ‘are you left-handed or right-handed?’ It didn’t make a difference, he played left and right-handed hurling.

“So, I took a seven iron out of Celia’s bag and said just hit a few balls. I turned my back on him and he was hitting away these balls. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he was unreal, he was like a pro.”

Murphy was a GAA-man at heart too when he was younger but one afternoon he found a golf ball in a neighbour’s garden and the love affair with this new game took shape.

He cut the front lawn and prepared a nine-hole pitch and putt course for his own use, and without a set of golf clubs to his name, he used a hurl to hit the ball.

“The doctor was coming to my mother who wasn’t well at the time. He saw this and he brought me a couple of clubs then the next time he came,” said Murphy.

“The parents felt I would be better off milking cows. My father, James, was huge into greyhounds. He loved his greyhounds and he was very disappointed in me when I didn’t share the same interest.”

The family farm was in Glenbeg just a few kilometres outside of Dungarvan, his house there would later to be coined ‘Augusta’ after Murphy and his wife Mary got married.

But as his love for the game of golf grew it was in the late 1960s when he made the long trip up to Dublin where he finally got to purchase his own golf clubs.

“It was about 1968, the interesting thing about it is in them days there was no pro shops in the clubs or anything like that,” said Murphy.

“In fact, it was a half-set of clubs I bought up in Clery’s on O’Connell Street. Philomena Garvey was there in the golf section and she recommended the clubs to me. I got a lift up to Dublin from a friend of mine and I bought the first half-set of clubs.”

Murphy’s brother Jimmy went all the way to having a scratch handicap and while Pat never got quite as low, he still got to boast a single-digit figure.

“I took to the game of golf in Dungarvan, which was a nine-hole course, they had only one greenkeeper and he was doing everything,” said Murphy.

“I came on-board with him as a volunteer and I used to maintain the course when he was on holidays. I used to cut the holes for the weekends and that was the way it was, I absolutely loved it.“

He would become Captain and President in Dungarvan but eventually his neighbour, Pat Spratt, started to construct his own golf course. Eddie Hackett was brought on board as designer and he used the nous of the experienced Murphy to help navigate the challenging task.

“They started building West Waterford Golf Course around 35 years ago,” said Murphy.

“They coaxed me away to help with the building. I became very friendly with Eddie at the time and I got into that with him. He sent me off over to England to do greenkeeping courses.

“I was the go-to person ever and always after that. The situation was, Pat wanted me to get the members but it was very hard to get them so I came up with the idea, you know what I’ll do, I’ll go after the juniors.

“That’s how I got Seamus Power, Gary Hurley, and these fellas. They came in and they had the golf course to themselves all day long. I knew if I got in the juniors their daddies and mammies would come with them.”

It was an instant success and West Waterford Golf Club became a hotbed for the rising talent in Ireland at the time.

They thrived in the Irish Junior Foursomes competitions as well as the Senior Cup where just one player on the team was over the age of 20.

Power was in USA where he had started college and was becoming a household name over there. He has now risen to the 28th best golfer in the world but he never forgot his roots. While Gary Hurley continues to make strides on the DP World Tour and also calls back to Waterford regularly.

“What Seamus has done is outside of our imagination, it was against all the odds, absolutely against all the odds after his mother died when he was just eight,” said Murphy.

“Seamus is in contact with me literally every week at some stage or another. He has won around $10 million on the PGA Tour but he has never lost it because when Seamus comes home to Ireland he is over to my house.

“My youngest daughter was diagnosed with MS when she was 15. But Seamus is over to her. He is unbelievable and Gary Hurley is the same. Gary is over whenever he is home. He brings over his trophies and spends an hour or two and has a cup of tea.

“But I was so lucky, I was fortunate to have young lads like that come through and to have made such an impact on them.”

And Murphy’s impact hasn’t gone unnoticed as West Waterford nominated him as their club volunteer of the year in a new initiative run by Golf Ireland. The 76-year-old was also successful at the Munster awards night and as a result has been shortlisted for the Golf Ireland Club Volunteer of the Year.

“The club was opened in 1993 and it’s actually our 30th anniversary in July, we are having a massive celebration,” said Murphy.

“But the fact that my club nominated me and my province selected me, now I am thinking, you know what? I probably did make a difference. What I would be saying is you could make a difference as well. Even as an individual or collectively, you could make a huge difference.

“What I am thinking now and everybody does when they get older, it is up to us to promote, to protect and to preserve the game of golf going forward.”

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