Tom Murray holed two massive putts, 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 Englishman, 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 it 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.
“I’ve played the 18th nicely all week so I had quite a good feeling about it. I was way down the Rankings before this week so I had no events left, and I was nowhere on The European Tour so this week was massive. It’s extra special knowing I had to produce this week.”
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 Carrigill – 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 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship 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. “She keeps me on my toes and I just can’t imagine what she’s like right now.
“It does give you perspective and when she had her accident five years ago, I started putting her initials on my ball to remind me that if I hit a bad golf shot, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve done that ever since and the way I lined my ball up on the last, I could see the initials and to be honest, that was the only thought going through my head – she’ll be buzzing if I hole this.”
Bertasio, meanwhile, had to settle for a runner-up spot after a two under final round 70, but he made a significant move up the Road to Oman Rankings as a result, from 101st to 47th.
Englishman Gary Boyd had cause for celebration despite missing out on a play-off by a shot, as he virtually secured graduation to The European Tour for next year, finishing in outright third place, while his compatriot and former Amateur Champion Garrick Porteous sealed his best result of the season with a fourth place finish.