A New Englander's Take on Golf
November 30, 2022
Opportunity knocked and when it did, Kevin Murphy had the good sense to take advantage.

Being in the right place at the right time is called happenstance.

But when the right person is in the right place at the right time and uses oodles of character, personality and savvy to forge a successful path in life . . . well, that’s called Kevin Murphy.

Says who? Says a steady procession of people who’ve had the privilege of knowing or working with Murphy, the longtime PGA professional who is now the general manager at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.

“An amazing individual with so many wonderful assets,” said Nick Price. “I’m so happy that he’s a good friend of mine, and I consider that to be the highest compliment I can pay him – that he’s a good friend – because 15 years ago I didn’t know him from Adam.”

From esteemed course designer Bill Coore: “He’s a talented and great guy.”

Said Lynn Valentine, longtime teaching pro / golf pro at Old Palm GC in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.: “I can honestly say that I am the golf professional I am today because of Murph.”

And from Eddie Carbone, the longtime executive director of the NEPGA who now runs the TimberTech Championship, a playoff event on the PGA Tour Champions: “Pretty much a legend.”

Should we tell you that Murphy’s road from Scituate, Mass., to Jupiter, Fla., meandered through St. Leo University on Florida’s west coast and Bear Lakes CC in West Palm Beach and was dotted with endless rounds of golf, you’d not be surprised. But the starting point, adds the definitive exclamation point.

“I was very lucky. My family belonged to Hatherly Country Club and we lived in a house next to the second tee,” said Murphy.

“So the truth is, golf has been in my blood all my life.”

Even when he realized in college that the competitive corner of golf wasn’t where he’d earn his living, Murphy knew he wanted to be involved somehow, some way in the game. And he has, too, for 39 fruitful years, which Murphy credits to being “nothing but fortunate.” Friends would argue, however, that it’s a tribute to his uncanny ability to connect with people.

Wherever the truth lies – and the gut tells you that Murphy is being humble and his friends should be believed – his is a wonderful story that melts seamlessly into the fascinating tale of McArthur Golf Club.

Located in the lavishly golf-rich area of Hobe Sound, Fla., McArthur has some well-heeled neighbors – Medalist GC, Jupiter Hills, Loblolly, The Grove XXIII, and further down the road there’s Seminole, Bear’s Club, Old Marsh, Old Palm and . . . OK, you get the point. It’s an extraordinary area for golf clubs.

What sits on a sweeping stretch of land that used to be the McArthur Dairy Farm might just be the best of ‘em all. Oh, it was really good when Price collaborated with Andy Banfield of Tom Fazio’s group to design McArthur GC back in 2002. In those years, it was a labor of love, Price insists, and the watchful eyes for the project extended to Club President Peter Lund, superintendent Thomas Barrett, and Murphy.

“We’ve refined it, tweaked it, always kept doing little things,” said Price.

With the sale of McArthur GC a few years ago to a group led by the Reyes brothers, Chris and Jude, “we had dream owners,” said Price. “They made possible everything we would want.”

A second 18 holes has been designed by Coore and Ben Crenshaw, men who embrace the minimalistic philosophy and do wonderous work with the sort of sand-based land that they have been blessed with at McArthur. When it opens, perhaps in April of ’23, McArthur GC and its 36 holes “will be a wonderful thing,” said Price, who is aware of the buzz within golf circles – that it might be the best golf club in the country.

That fills him with great pride, but with much credit spread around, Price showers an ample amount upon Murphy, who was hired in 2006.

“We’re fortunate to have him,” said Price. “He’s been a big part of McArthur. So much of what we’ve done has been under his guidance.”

Heralded for his ability to remember names, especially when it comes to members and guests, Murphy is a guy who still lives by words that his father instilled in him – “He would always tell me, ‘If you listen twice as much as you talk, you’ll learn a lot more.’ ”

Not surprisingly then, Murphy talks fervently about doors that were opened for him by mentors.

Right out of college in 1984, Murphy worked summers at Hatherly for Woody Kaye and winters for Jack Sanford at a new place that had been developed in West Palm Beach, Bear Lakes. When Sanford in 1989 left to open a new course in Lake Tahoe, the Perini family turned to Murphy.

“I was 29 and I was a head professional. I mean, how lucky was I?” he said. “I felt so fortunate to be in the business, to be around successful people. It’s a people business and it’s a game that teaches us how to behave, how to react, how to communicate.”

An iconic 36-hole club that was home to a parade of PGA Tour members, Bear Lakes was forever hosting tournaments for professionals and elite amateurs. By 2006, Murphy had become GM and a cherished mentor to a long line of younger club pros.

“He encouraged me through my playing days and (has done) similarly with my teaching days,” said Valentine. “He would always give advice when I asked. Sometimes, I didn’t always take the advice and would come back with my head down.

“He would always ask me, ‘Did you learn your lesson?’ Yes, Murph, I did. A 25-year friendship will never go away. Murph is the best.”

Valentine’s thoughts have been echoed over the years by a long line of people – from Hall of Fame golfers such as Price, to the late golf-writing icon Tim Rosaforte who was a dear friend to Murphy, to the many young assistants at Bear Lakes CC and McArthur GC. “They have kept me young,” laughed Murphy.

His love affair with this golf profession – from Hatherly to Bear Lakes to McArthur – is nearly 40 glorious years old and Murphy gladly reveals the secret.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world,” he said, “to be nice to people.”

I have a passion for playing golf that is surpassed only by my passion for writing about people who have a passion for playing golf, for working in golf, for living their lives around golf. Chasing the best professional golfers around the world for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and the PGA Tour for more than 20 years was a blessing for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I’ve been left with precious memories of golf at its very best, but here is a takeaway that rates even more valuable – the game belongs to everyone who loves it. “Power Fades” will be a weekly tribute with that in mind, a digital production to celebrate a game that many of us love. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. And should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, feel free to pass them along.

Cheers, Jim McCabe

Q School final is next up for seniors

There are an assortment of names who’ll stir memories of yesteryear when you peruse the field for next week’s (Dec. 6-9) final stage of the PGA Tour Champions Qualifying Tournament. Two who made headlines at PGA Championships (Bob May lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods in 2000; Shaun Micheel was a stunning winner in 2003) will tee it up and so, too, will former PGA Tour winners Jason Bohn, Olin Browne, Matt Gogel, Jonathan Kaye, Harrison Frazar, Gabriel Hjertstedt, and Dicky Pride. Brandel Chamblee is another former PGA Tour winner who’ll be there, though he clearly made a bigger name for himself as an esteemed TV commentator for The Golf Channel. Also scheduled to play at TPC Scottsdale’s Champions Course will be Harrison Frazar, Thomas Levet, and Charlie Wi.

Not that the field will be lacking any sort of local flavor, because New Englanders have earned their way there. Fran Quinn of Holden, Mass.; Patrick Sheehan of Warwick, R.I.; and Connecticut native Bobby Gage – each of whom played on the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour – are entered. So, too, is Mark Brown, who was born in Milton, Mass., and was a head professional for years at Tam O’Shanter on Long Island.

1 – If only he had asked me

It took Bryson DeChambeau a year to discover that 6,000 calories of protein a day wasn’t very good for him and his diet had to change. When I saw his diet didn’t include donuts, pizza, Guinness and pistachio nuts – four essential foods – I could have told him in like 30 seconds that it needed to change.


2 – No love lost

Something tells me Tiger Woods dislikes Greg Norman more than Greg Norman dislikes the PGA Tour – which is saying a lot.


3 – Offering different rewards

For winning on the PGA Tour you only get a two-year exemption. For going 11-27 as head coach at Carolina you get an eight-year contract at Nebraska. Man, either golf is really tough or those ‘Huskers have very low standards.


4 – But I heard Johnny Miller say it

Love when us high handicappers say we “came over the top.” We have no idea what it means, but it sounds good.


5 – Can’t slow him down

Mark Calcavecchia with knee replacement surgery, at 62. The guess is he’d still be able to play 18 in 2 hours 8 minutes.


6 – For those who only speak Acronyms

RAHMBO and JT have joined RORS and TW for the ’24 season of TGL developed by TMRW. Says it all.


7 – Wise guys are on fire

Seen in a headline: “Bettors like Justin Thomas, Tony Finau at Hero World Challenge.” Wow. Can’t slip anything past those savvy bettors, eh? And here I was thinking they’d be loading up on Sepp Straka.


8 – Random thought

We need more capers and garlic in our days – and way fewer power rankings on sports websites.


9 – It’s all about the wind

There might not be a lot of issues we can all agree on, but here’s one: 39 degrees and no wind is playable but 47 degrees with 15 m.p.h. wind is unplayable.


 

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