As George Murray began celebrating his first professional victory at the Scottish Hydro Challenge, the 27 year old raised a glass to the man who saved his career, former British Lions and Scotland physio, Stuart Barton.
After picking up the first prize of €32,000 and leaping from 45th to fourth in the Challenge Tour Rankings at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club in Aviemore, Murray revealed that were it not for the expertise of Barton, he may have been sitting at home wondering what might have been.
It was just over two years ago that the former Scottish Amateur Champion began to have severe back problems that threatened to bring his professional career to a shuddering halt.
Most expert opinion pointed towards complicated back surgery until Murray sought the opinion of the man who toured with British Lions rugby squad in 2005.
"I had a bulging disc and someone wanted to operate,” revealed Murray. “But Stuart advised against it and he's been 100 per cent right. He said I should have a steroid injection into the disc and it's been great ever since.
"The operation might have been successful but you never know when you are dealing with such a sensitive area – especially for a golfer.
“If things had kept going the way they were going then I wouldn't have been playing, that's for sure. I was missing cut after cut spending lots of money and didn't know if I wanted to keep doing this anymore. But my coach, Ian Rae, also encouraged me to stick in and keep at it and I've been playing well ever since.”
Murray didn’t just play well at Spey Valley: he was outstanding, posting three consecutive rounds of four under par 67 to establish a three stroke lead going into the final round. Would the last day nerves affect him or would his refreshed attitude to the game allow him to secure is first victory as a professional?
His answer was emphatically positive as he resisted the advances of Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsson to produce a brilliant 66 in testing conditions to win by four.
“I have been playing a lot better – I think it is just the mental approach and I have become a lot more relaxed,” said Murray. “I have been reading some books in an attempt to chill myself out and it is helping.
“The best one is Zen Golf which is brilliant. When you read it you just come away thinking that every shot has no relevance, so when I am standing over a four-footer I know that it’s not important and if I miss it then it is not the end of the world.
“I think the aim now has to be to try and stay in the top five in the Rankings for the rest of the season. Winning will do a lot for my confidence – I have done it here against most of the best players on the Challenge Tour so there’s no reason to think that I can’t do it more often if I play to my abilities.”
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