By David Birtill
MANCHESTER’S Tom Murray holed two massive putts at the 18th, one in regulation play and one on the second play-off hole, to secure a dramatic maiden European Challenge Tour title at the Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort.
The son of former European Tour winner and Senior Tour player Andrew, proved that a steely winning mentality runs in the blood as he defied the odds to emerge victorious, before dedicating the victory to his girlfriend – captain of Great Britain’s Wheelchair Basketball team Sophie Carrigill.
It was an enthralling day from start to finish at the pristine Carlow venue and Murray’s roller-coaster round epitomised the drama, as he began with two bogeys to fall out of contention early doors before carding five birdies before the turn to move right back into the mix.
A third bogey of the day at the 11th was followed by two more birdies and he left himself with a 25 foot birdie putt at the 18th to take it to extra holes with Italian Nino Bertasio, which he duly converted to card a five under 67 and a 16 under total.
After two pars on the first play-off hole, Murray left himself a tough task with a 30-footer for birdie the second time around but he judged it perfectly and it dropped into the cup for a crucial win, which moved him from 78th place to 31st in the Road to Oman Rankings.
“It’s kind of surreal right now but it’s what I’ve been working for,” said the 25-year-old. “I had a couple of good days working at home and mentally preparing for this. Mentally I was in a much better place and to get a first win is big.
“I was pretty much in control, a little bit nervous obviously, but I just kept saying to myself, keep positive, over every shot, so that kept me in my own little bubble.
“I had sensed that I needed that birdie putt for a play-off, but I hadn’t looked at the leaderboard all day. My playing partner told me there was a tie at 15 under so I knew it would be significant, for a play-off or a win.
“They were both very similar putts so that helped me for the second one. I didn’t take much time over the second one, I knew the read – it was a bit uphill off the right – and it was the best putt of the day to be honest, rolled it in the front door.
Murray has taken plenty of inspiration from his girlfriend, to whom he dedicated the win in his speech.
Having suffered a serious car accident five years ago, Sophie – daughter of a former European Tour player and now a referee on tour, Paul – has since become the captain of Great Britain’s Wheelchair Basketball team, winning a gold medal in the Women’s U25 World Championship in Beijing earlier this year.
“Sophie plays elite sport herself and she studies psychology as well, so you couldn’t have a more perfect role model and inspiration for me,” he said.
Tom Murray is pictured with the trophy in Ireland.