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The Big Break Champion

Mark Murphy has come a long way

Posted Nov 28, 2011 by Dermot Gilleece

mark murphy

The toughest thing was keeping his mouth shut, which didn’t come easily to a former disc-jockey.  Indeed in reflecting on the announcement last weekend of his “Big Break Ireland” win, which actually happened last May, 33-year-old Mark Murphy admitted that maintaining its news value was a close run thing. “Paul McGinley almost spilled the beans when he met me during the Irish Open at Killarney,” said the gregarious native of Waterville, Co Kerry.  

As it happens, making an impact on the American media comes easily to Murphy who attracted the notice of the “San Francisco Chronicle” back in 1999.  That was when their golf scribe, Pat Sullivan, informed us in his report of the San Francisco City Golf Championships culminating in the St Patrick’s Day festivities: "There was no mistaking Mark Murphy's golf credentials when he arrived here earlier this year to stay with San Francisco attorney, Andrew Zacks, who first met Murphy when he was working as a caddie at Waterville.”

Sullivan went on: "Zacks had mentioned that he knew Fluff Cowan and Tiger Woods.  Murphy thought it was just another empty boast by an American on holiday, until signed photos of the two arrived by mail a few weeks later.  When Cowan and Woods visited Ireland prior to the British Open, Murphy caddied for both."  In fact that visit by Woods in 1998 developed into something of an annual affair and he was accompanied in 1999 by the late Payne Stewart, who was to die tragically in an air crash in October of that year.  

The report then quoted Zacks as saying that since arriving in San Francisco in January 1999, young Mark "took some money off the boys" at McLaren Park and had other golf outings at Spyglass Hill, Pasatiempo and Ford Ord Bayonet. And his failure to extend a good run in the month-long "City" event, placed him in the celebrated company of Tom Watson and Johnny Miller.

In the event, he was beaten by 48-year-old Gary Vanier, a six-time winner who said of the Waterville youth: "He was a breath of fresh air. You would have thought he was 35 years old by his demeanour. No club banging or anything like that. It's nice to see kids like that come out."  Indeed.

After that, Murphy came home to represent Munster in the amateur Youth Interprovincial Championship.  And a year later, he lost a play-off for the East of Ireland Amateur Championship to Noel Fox, at the third tie hole.  As a consolation, he gained international honours with Ireland later that year. Then, having decided to try his luck as a professional, he became a good friend of Rocco Mediate’s through regular trips to the US.

But it’s been a struggle for the player known affectionately as “Muppet”.  Which made his victory on the Golf Channel’s reality show all the more welcome.  It took place at The K Club six months ago and carries a cash prize of $50,000 along with invitations to compete in the 2012 Irish Open and the Hassan II Golf Trophy on the European Tour. In addition, Murphy receives an Adams Golf endorsement contract, which includes $10,000 in cash, a $10,000 shopping spree to Dick’s Sporting Goods; $10,000 airline credit for travel use with United Airlines and a “wonderful West of Ireland” trip for two. PGA Tour professional, Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, was a winner of the “Big Break VII: Reunion” who stepped into the limelight earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after leading the first three rounds, before ultimately finishing tied for eighth.

“I felt like I’d never achieved anything in golf but now, I have achieved something,” said Murphy after beating Canadian Julian Trudeau for an overdue play-off victory on The K Club’s Palmer Course. “As ‘Two-Gloves Tommy’ has demonstrated, this show changes lives. I was tempted to pack in tournament golf but I believe this may have changed my life forever. I’m Big Break Champion!”

- Dermot Gilleece

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