England and Wales (North) Region
10 Dec 14
When Manchester's Andrew Murray tees it up in the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius this week he can be forgiven for having one eye on the leaderboard at The European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship.
For while the Englishman requires a strong finish in the European Senior Tour’s season-finale to boost his own playing rights for 2015, over at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa his son Tom is preparing to embark on his European Tour career.
It will be a proud moment for Murray Snr, who made 319 European Tour appearances from 1979-2005, with his finest hour being his victory in the 1989 European Open at Walton Heath, just four months before Tom was born.
The 58 year old won the Senior Tour Qualifying School in Portugal in February, with Tom as his caddie, and is currently 43rd on the Senior Tour Order of Merit, meaning he needs to finish the season inside the top 40 to avoid another trip to the Algarve at the start of the 2015 campaign.
It was also via the Qualifying School route that 24 year old Tom secured his rookie campaign on the European Tour, finishing 14th at PGA Cataluyna Resort in Spain last month.
That means 35 years after making his own European Tour debut, Andrew Murray is experiencing the nerves, emotions and excitement of it all over again, this time vicariously through Tom.
“I’m excited for him,” he said. “I’m definitely going to make some space in my schedule to go and watch him. I don’t want to put any pressure on him, and he knows that, but he is pretty cool with it. I don’t think I’ll caddie for him though as I’m not sure I can carry the big Tour bag.
“I think playing myself this week is a good thing, otherwise I’d just be watching him. I’m just going to concentrate on what I’m doing. If I was at home it would be on record, and I’d be in touch with him. I’ve spoken to him on text once to know he got there and he said he’s had a couple of good practice rounds and seen a wild elephant already. So he will really embrace it and I think he will really enjoy it.
“I’ve not given him much advice. He doesn’t need me in his ear. As long as he prepares right he will be fine. I trust him to do that and he is working really hard, particularly on his fitness, which has helped him massively over the last two months. He’s happy with his clubs, we managed to get him a couple of sponsorship deals, so everything is in place. It’s exciting for him.”
After two years competing on the European Challenge Tour – recording a top ten finish in the Scottish Hydro Challenge in 2013 with his father on the bag – Tom progressed through all three stages of the Qualifying School, and his attitude has impressed Andrew, who knows from his own experience the qualities needed to prosper at the highest level.
“I was on the motorway when Tom won his card,” recalled Andrew. “I was getting a text on every hole from my best friend who was out there watching him. I’ve got a car that reads texts to me and it was the 16th hole by the time I got home. I knew he made bogey on the 17th but when he got the tee shot down the last I knew it was fine, so I was really chuffed for him, especially finishing in the top 15 to get a better category.
“He called me about half an hour after he got his card and said he had played really well, so he must have done because he is normally very harsh on himself.
“I’m really proud of him, especially the way he dug in after a 76 on the first day. It’s not easy coming through all three stages like he did. He is very tenacious and has a very good head, which should serve him well.”
While keeping his card will be this year’s goal for Tom, the Murrays will be ultimately hoping to become the fourth father and son duo to win on the European Tour, following Antonio and Ignacio Garrido, Craig and Kevin Stadler and Jose Maria and Alejandro Cañizares.
And, without looking to put any pressure on his son, Andrew believes Tom is better equipped to succeed among Europe’s elite than he was.
“It took me a few years to feel at home on The European Tour,” said Andrew. “But I was never anywhere close to being as good a player as Tom is. The level has gone up. I had a couple of decent years, but I was never a strong player. He has the ability and game to be a proper player. He is more powerful, and he is a miles better player than I ever was, no question. That’s how much the standard has raised.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he copes, and I’m nervous for him too, obviously. I’m looking forward to seeing how he copes at the start.
“His success has also given me a massive, massive, buzz. He has this great opportunity to play on The European Tour among all these top players. It’s great when people – players on the Senior Tour for example – come up to me and congratulate me and ask about him.
“It would be great if we could both do well this week. I’ve had a disappointing season, having started well with a couple of top ten finishes, so it would be nice to sign off with a strong performance here in Mauritius.
“If I could do well enough here so that I finish in the top 40 on the Order of Merit and Tom makes the cut, I’d be very happy on Sunday. It would give him a lot of confidence. Anything can happen, so it would be nice if both situations did occur, but if I had to choose obviously I’d rather Tom did well. I’ve had my time and now it is his.”
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