Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Heart Murphy Born on Valentine's Day, Reborn as Senior

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

All Heart Murphy Born on Valentine's Day, Reborn as Senior

Article excerpt

One would never confuse him with a Hale Irwin, a Greg Norman, a Nick Price . . . a millionaire professional golfer. With his straw hats, roundish figure and Irish sense of humor, Bob Murphy looks more like the next-door neighbor, an "Uncle Bob," an ordinary Joe.

Not too long ago, even Murphy would have never bought into the big-time golfer profile. A painful and debilitating arthritis condition put his golf bag in the garage and put an ESPN microphone in his hand. After almost 20 years on the PGA Tour, his playing career was over.

But people like Murphy are what the PGA Senior Tour is all about. It is golf's greatest mulligan, a career do-over, and with the help of modern medicine, the man called "Murph" has made the most of it. "It's just incredible, really," said Murphy, who was born on St. Valentine's Day in 1943. "Some people dream of hitting the lottery once in their life; we play in the lottery every week." Beginning with practice rounds on Monday, golf's traveling Wheel of Fortune comes to St. Louis in the form of the Senior PGA Boone Valley Classic at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. Murphy will be among the favorites as 78 players beat the bentgrass for $1.2 million in prize money. Murphy graduated from the University of Florida in 1966, where he had gone to school on a baseball scholarship. A shoulder injury damaged his baseball aspirations at Florida, so he stretched the truth when telling the golf coach his handicap and was given a tryout for the team. He shot an 87. "I was out there with guys who are all country club types," Murphy said. "I had my T-shirt on and everything. You might say I looked a little out of place. But the coach, Rehling Conrad, saw something I guess. Maybe he liked my spunk and attitude, and he worked with me and taught me." But Murphy's biggest comeback was still to happen. After winning a U.S. Amateur and an NCAA championship in college, he joined the PGA Tour in 1968 and was Rookie of the Year. He had two victories in '68 and won twice more in the early '70s. But in the early '80s, he began experiencing pain and stiffness that made playing more and more difficult. He didn't know it at the time, but it was the onset of a form of arthritis. The flare-ups would subside and allow Murphy the occasional window of playing opportunity. At the age of 43 and after 11 years without a victory, he pulled off a stunning win in 1986 at the Canadian Open, defeating Norman by 3 strokes at Glen Abbey Golf Course. But the moment in the sun was short-lived. "I kept fooling myself, thinking I could continue to play, and it got worse," Murphy said. "It is psoriatic arthritis, which is related to the skin. A very small percentage of people who have psoriasis have it and it moves around. I would have it in the knees, then the hips and the arms. …

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