Will Murphy “always had strength and length,” Matt McCarley, his early instructor, remembered. “But like most junior golfers, he needed to learn how to score.”
Now a senior at USC, Murphy put together a year to cherish in 2014. On the high-profile national amateur circuit, he won twice, added two more top-10s and an 18th. He led the Gamecocks in scoring in the SEC and NCAA championships. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
“As good as any amateur in the country,” said Fred Wadsworth, his instructor for eight years.
Murphy reaped the rewards on Saturday in Golf Day ceremonies at Columbia Country Club, taking home the hardware for earning the South Carolina Golf Association’s player of year prize.
“I’m excited to win (the award) and I’m excited about golf going forward,” said Murphy, a Columbia native who played on A.C. Flora High’s powerhouse teams. “I had a really good streak. I played with confidence and had a really good attitude.”
He’s been playing since 3 thanks to the influence of his father and grandfather, and he “learned how to score” (his short game) under Wadsworth, a pro who won on the PGA Tour, and also a family friend.
“Will’s dynamite from 100 yards in,” said McCarley, now pro at Camden Country Club, “and Fred’s done a great job with him.”
Wadsworth, a former USC player who coaches the Hammond School teams, deflects credit, noting, “Will’s got to hit the shot.”
Murphy adapted to Wadsworth’s instruction, understanding “the value of one shot becomes more important” in tougher competition, he said.
“Little things play a major role in golf,” Wadsworth said, “and Will embraces that.”
Murphy placed 29th, eighth and 23rd in USC’s fall tournaments before tendinitis his wrist sidelined him for the final event. His final-round 66 led the Gamecocks’ charge from behind to win the Carpet Capital Collegiate.
“We’re really looking forward to the spring,” he said. “We came close (to the final eight in match play) in the NCAA Championship last year, and we’re excited about the possibilities this year. It’s a fun time playing with these guys.”
In his long-range plans, the professional game beckons. First, he said, “I want to finish the college season strong, then we’ll see.”
“As you move up in competition, the pool gets deeper,” Wadsworth said. “A lot of young players have success early and are not willing to put in the work needed for the long term. Will’s not like that.”
Chip shotsThe Columbia-area Golfweek Amateur Golf Tour begins Feb. 14 at Columbia CC. The season consists of 15 tournaments with the championship at Cobblestone Park in September. Competition is open to all amateurs, men and women, with players placed in flights according to handicaps. For information, call John Livoti (866-918-4653) or visit amateurgolftour.net and click on Columbia tour. ... Rick Cloninger (Fort Mill, senior men) and Dawn Woodard (Greer, women) earned player of the year awards from the Carolinas Golf Association. Others: Scott Harvey (Greensboro, men), Pat Brogden (Garner, N.C., senior women), Eric Bae (Pinehurst, N.C., junior boys) and Jessica Spicer (Bahama, N.C., junior girls).