Our very own Matt Murphy, Green Grass Sales Executive for the Northeast, qualified for the 41st US Mid Am in Wisconsin this September. Matt, who grew up on the north side of Chicago in a town called Winnetka, grew up playing golf. Both he and his uncle, johnnie-O founder John O’Donnell, credit their hometown and local clubs with their early exposure to golf. Following highschool, Matt went to Boston College where he had the opportunity to walk on to the golf team. After graduation in 2015, Matt started his career with johnnie-O. 7 years later, and as Matt says - “it’s been a heck of a lot of fun working in the golf industry”. Before the tournament kicks off on September 10th, we asked Matt a few questions about what it means to him to have qualified for one of the biggest amateur competitions in golf, what golf looks like for him these days and of course - what johnnie-O gear he will be rocking during play.
Q: Give us a quick snapshot into what got you into golf / what golf means to you
A: I grew up in an area that was pretty darn seasonal - we can really only play golf in Chicago for about 6 months before it’s too soggy, rainy or flat out freezing. I did, however, grow up with a randomly massive contingent of close friends from grade school and into high school who simply loved the game. Some had older brothers who played, some had family memberships at the local clubs, and others picked it up because they saw some were playing and wanted to give it a try. It’s funny, my Dad picked up golf when he met my Mom because her brother’s and their friends played. He has not only gotten significantly better in the last 25 years, but also enjoys it more than most other activities. My Mom never plays, but has a gorgeous golf swing. She grew up taking lessons at Bel Air CC in Los Angeles with her 6 siblings, so it has been on the O’Donnell side that I have gotten most of my exposure to the game. My uncle John has always been an inspiration on the high level amateur side. He’s played in a handful of USGA events and won club championships at some amazing clubs, which have motivated me a lot.
Q: What's your home course?
A: I grew my golf game through the junior program at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, IL where a handful of my good friends back home still play - there are some really good players at that club, and the course is terrific - and hard! My folks play at Shoreacres in Lake Bluff where my uncle’s John and Chris are also members, so I have been lucky to have access there. My current home course is Apawamis Club in Rye, NY. It’s a super old club that sits among some of the big clubs / courses in Westchester like Winged Foot, Westchester, and Quaker Ridge. It has a rep as a funky, quirky golf course, but I love it - especially for match play. The place is amazing, I am really lucky to be there.
Q: What was the transition like from a D1 college athlete to the workforce
A: I was lucky to have golf in college, no doubt. After all the early wake ups for practice and workouts, right into classes I was always adhering to a schedule. I certainly had my fun, but I found a nice regiment and stuck to it. Now I can’t sleep past 6:30am and it has been the best thing for me in my early career, particularly when my territory was massive and I needed every hour of daylight I could squeeze out.
Q: Your role at johnnie-O still has you very much involved with the golf world - has it been fun for you to learn about this side of the industry?
A: Joining johnnie-O was the best decision I ever made. I’ve had the privilege of meeting our country's most dedicated golf professionals and club staff at places that have amazing histories and stories. I never thought I would have worked here as long as I have, but when you are as interested in the game of golf, its traditions and history it’s tough not to love.
Q: What did your path to qualifying look like? Do you have a strict regimen or would you consider yourself a (above average) casual golfer?
A: I have tried to qualify for the US Amateur a number of times when I was in high school and college, but the college kids are so damn good and dedicated to their performance it’s tough to square up with them. This is my 2nd or 3rd time trying for the Mid-Am, which is a much more enjoyable pace for me - 18 hole qualifier versus 36 holes helps! I am a pretty casual player though. My favorite weekends of the entire year are the trips with my friends from home (WOTS - War on the Shore) and our annual family boy’s trip, where 16 of us (dad, brother, uncles and cousins) take on a new destination for golf and camaraderie.
Q: What does qualifying in the US Mid Am mean to/for you? Has this been a dream or goal of yours? *I can do research on this as well, but if you have any fun facts around the history of the tournament & why it’s significant, what it means for the winner (ie. invite to The Masters) we can include that
A: A golf and life goal of mine has been to play in a USGA event. My experiences in match play coupled with a bit better mental game / outlook have positioned me well to give the qualifiers a run for their money and I am really excited about that moving forward.
Q: Being from the Midwest, what's it like to have this year's tournament in your backyard?
A: I went to watch my buddy Stew Hagestad play in the 2017 US Open and thought it was an epic venue - I really love links golf and feel like I can play it better than most. I am so lucky the event is only about 90 minutes from where I grew up outside Chicago and expect to have my family along with my cousin and a few aunts and uncles, some friends and my girlfriend on property to watch me play in my first USGA event.
Q: What are you most excited about in playing at the US Mid AM?
A: I am excited to test my mental game. I don’t think I am any more or less physically talented than I was when I was playing in high school and college, but I have become so much stronger mentally. I am excited for the challenge of what will inevitably need a nervous lead up and start to the event and how I can leverage my experience to perform under some pressure.
Q: What's your go-to johnnie-O product? What will you be rocking out there in Wisconsin?
A: I have been loving our performance hoodies lately. The featherweight jersey we introduced in 2022 now makes up a nice chunk of our performance fabric offering and we are doing it in both shirts and hoodies.