Golf has been a part of Tyler Murphy's life since before he can remember. There are pictures of Murphy as a 2-year-old in diapers, swinging a golf club.
That served the Mallard Creek freshman well this year, when he held his own on the second-place team in the conference.
Next year, the Mavericks, who will lose six players to graduation this spring, are going to be a different team. Murphy is likely to be the most experienced player and will be counted on for leadership.
"I think Tyler is ready to step into a bigger role for us next year," said Maverick head coach Drew Tonissen. "He is mature for his age, he is a quick learner, and his game is very good. I see him being a leader for us going forward."
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Murphy, along with sophomores Keegan Sarchett, Cory Morris and Jared Roberts, will be the only returning players. Murphy has the most match and tournament experience of the group.
He fired a personal best 39 at Tradition this season. His goal next year is to be more consistent, something that as a freshman, he sometimes struggled with.
"The mental part is what sometimes gets to me," said Murphy. "When I hit a bad shot, I have to shake it off, and I am getting a lot better at that. It is something I am working on."
He says listening to CDs of Bob Rotella, a golf coach whose clients include professionals Nick Price, Davis Love III, Tom Kite and many more, have calmed him down and helped with the mental side of the game.
The rest is just fine.
"I am not extremely long off the tee, but my short game is good, and it has to be to make up the difference," said Murphy. "Some guys hit 300 yard drives every time, and I am not there yet. I am working on strength training to get more distance, but getting up and down is what I do well."
Tonissen agrees and thinks Murphy's short game was the best on the team and that his length will come with the natural progression from freshman to senior years.
"Tyler has a great all-around short game," said Tonissen. "Nobody else is even close to him when it comes to chipping and putting."
Murphy has been playing in competitive tournaments like the National Junior Golf Tour since the fifth grade. When his sister, Devan, who is going to East Carolina on a golf scholarship, would play, he would enter those tournaments.
"I have always wanted to beat Devan since I can remember," said Tyler. "I see her play and how consistent she is, and I want to be at that level. I aspire to be like her."
Murphy has been playing competitive golf, so his first year on the high school team was not as big a leap as it would be for some players.
"I felt like I really improved throughout the year, but I could have done better in certain matches," he said. "There are some really good players in our conference and in the tournaments that I play in."
"To me, it really doesn't matter who you are playing against, I still have to score well. It isn't about anyone else; it is about the individual score and how I play. That is all that matters."
Murphy is looking forward to this summer, when he can practice and get ready for some tournaments and next year. He plays as often as he can, every day if possible, and tries to work on different aspects of his game.
"When I go play, I try to work on course management every time. If I'm at the range, I will hit each club in my bag. I have developed a little fade somehow, and want to get my draw back. That is what I'm working on right now," said Murphy.
"This off-season, I am going to work as hard as I can and work really hard on my game. I am going to try to lead this team next year, and I look forward to the chance."
Tonissen is excited to have Murphy back to lead the Mavericks. Losing six seniors could set any program back a little, but Tonissen likes his chances.
"Tyler had a really good year, and he was a great addition to this team," said Tonissen. "I would have liked him (to) score a little more consistently low, but that will come."
"He is well liked, a good player and he is really easy to coach. I think he will make a really good leader and once he matures physically he is going to be a very good golfer for us."
Andrew Stark is a freelance writer for University City News. Have a story idea for Andrew? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org