“That was a grind” – that was the first reaction from a smiling John Murphy after finishing his final round at the NCAA Regionals in Louisville. But it was a very positive finish as two birdies on 16 and 17, and a long par putt on 18 from Murphy proved to be crucial as his University of Louisville side qualified for the NCAA National Championships earlier this evening. Murphy finished the 54 hole tournament tied for 12th place on -2, and his finish ensured that the Cardinals finished in the top five and now go though to the final stage of the college season. Overnight the Cardinals were in fifth place, with a six shot cushion over their nearest challenger. At the turn though it was a different story with the Louisville holding the last qualifying spot by just one shot. Murphy was level par for his first nine but dropped three shots in the next five holes. At that stage it was getting tight, but the third year student was two under for his final four holes which helped the Cardinals go through to the nationals for just the fourth time in their history. In the end they took fourth place as other teams dropped shots on the closing holes.
The Cardinals were playing on their home course. After a great season they were ranked 21st coming into the regionals, but had a disappointing result in the ACC Championship two weeks ago. The home course advantage proved to be important as Murphy described: “It was a great experience, no doubt about it. It’s really fun getting to play in front of people, especially when you’re playing well. It was nice having that extra bit of support coming in when we needed it.” Murphy returned to Louisville last August and he hit the ground running. After an injury hit first year, he marked his junior year with a serious number of under par rounds and several notable individual and team finishes. Last week he moved inside the top 200 in the world amateur rankings having started the college season outside the top 400. Now heading into the business end of the college season, the Kinsale man is happy with his progress on the course. “Overall I played really well over the three days and my game is trending in the right direction” added Murphy. “Everything felt very tidy this week, I just need to sharpen everything up that little bit more, but overall things feel really good.”
The team which also features Devin Morley from Oughterard, now has a quick turnaround for the NCAA Finals which start on Thursday next. “The National Championships are going to be fun, getting to play in a field like that is always a great opportunity. We will be playing with guys who are going to be on tour in a few months time, so getting to compare yourself against the best on a tough course is going to be a great opportunity. We are going to get a few days of practice in, and then coach is flying us down in a private jet, so overall we are pretty excited.” Cork interest in the NCAA Finals is extended as Aaron O’Callaghan’s Wake Forest. The were in the Myrtle Beach regionals and qualified in third place. Both the Cardinals and the Deacs (Wake Forest now head south west towards Arkansas for the finals which runs from the 24th May.