Saturday, June 20, 2009
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The charm of the U.S. Open, unlike many weeks in golf, is that it’s not all about Tiger and Phil. Oh, they’re here at the 109th edition, sure, very much front and center, but so are a handful of movers and dreamers who never have been here before, who arrive to the U.S. Open fresh from behind the counter at some pro shop, or with a calling card that might say “Gateway Tour.”
On a gray, overcast Saturday at muscular Bethpage Black, the fans stayed, the late afternoon stage cleared, and it was almost as if Trevor Murphy had the place all to himself. Hovering near the cutline at 3 over par in the second round, and with a strong stretch of closing holes ahead, the 24-year-old mini tour pro suddenly found a gear that Tiger and Phil have yet to show here.
He ripped driver and 5-iron at the 490-yard 16th hole and rolled in an 18-footer for birdie, then stuffed a 4-iron tight at the 207-yard 17th. Folks in the packed grandstands rose in unison and the roar was nothing short of Tigeresque. The volume then crashed up a notch when he rolled in the putt for a rare 2, setting up a walk up the hill to the 18th tee through a canopy of screaming fans holding up high fives and shouting his name to show their appreciation.
With such momentum on his side, he couldn’t help but make one more birdie at 18, curling in an uphill, right-to-lefter to the frenetic delight of 15 family members and friends whom a New York state trooper was kind enough to sneak behind the green. Birdie. Birdie. Birdie. All of a sudden, Trevor Murphy was off the cutline, in at even-par 140 after a second-round 69, and very much in the thick of the 109th U.S. Open.
So you can’t really blame him that he had a little trouble keeping his feet on the ground as he made one last walk up one more muddy hill toward the scoring quarters housed in the Bethpage clubhouse.
“I’m in la-la land,” he smiled to an official.
Joining Murphy in the Open’s Dreamer Division were a pair of amateurs, Drew Weaver (former British Amateur champion who just graduated from Virginia Tech), and Canadian-born Nick Taylor from the University of Washington, who had finished hours earlier, carding a fine 5-under 65.
There ought to be a few surprises at this year’s Open, as the Bethpage experience has been anything but routine. Mother Nature, not Ricky Barnes, should’ve been the name atop the midway leaderboard. Frankly, anytime weatherman Al Roker becomes an integral part of the NBC telecast, it’s probably not a good thing, and three days of rain (and more forecast Sunday) have had the Open running under a caution flag.
Not that Murphy, a former world-class junior skier from Vermont who turned to golf after blowing out his knee shortly after high school, has even noticed. For him, the last month has been a whir. There was U.S. Open local qualifying and then sectional qualifying in Purchase, N.Y. Oh, there was a marriage in there, too – his – and the purchase of a new home in Scottsdale, Ariz., which he closed on Monday of Open week.
He started dating his wife while he was going to school at Charlotte. She was the one who cut his hair. He must have liked the way she did it, because, says Amanda Murphy of her hubby, “he kept coming back.”
At one point Saturday, Murphy’s caddie, Blake Gianniny, stood in a fairway and asked Murphy if he has partaken in more golf tournaments or ski competitions. Murphy thought for a second, and said he didn’t know. He does know this: As invigorating as it used to feel to pull the goggles down and race down steep hills cutting through gates in the giant slalom and slalom, he says Saturday at Bethpage, in terms of a rush, might have created a new high.
“I’m going to say that probably tops it,” he said. “Those last three holes were pretty cool. People were yelling my name from all directions.”
Murphy readily admits he is no golf aficionado. Ask him to name every Olympic ski podium since Calgary in 1988 and he says he can do it in a heartbeat. Ask him who won a certain golf major three years ago, and he says he’s likely going to come up empty.
That’s OK. At the 109th U.S. Open, Murphy is finding out it’s a lot more cool to be a small part of golf history than to try and recite it.
As for the honeymoon he and Amanda have yet to embark upon, it’s still on hold. Right now, he’s focused on a big finish at Bethpage, a development that would bring with it earnings that would dwarf the $25,410 he’s won in 17 Gateway Tour events this season.
“Where we go,” he said half-jokingly, “might depend on how well I play here.”