LARAMIE – John Murdock IV made his professional golf debut earlier this spring, but today will have a similar feel.
The Laramie High grad and soon-to-be University of Wyoming graduate (he wraps up some online course work this month) will play as a professional for the first time on his home course at the Laramie Open. The three-day event, where the winning pro gets $15,000, concludes Sunday at the Glenn Red Jacoby Golf Course.
Murdock concluded his golf career at UW this spring. His first tournament as a pro was the Saltwater Classic in Riverton in late May. He tied for sixth place, and the final round was rained out. Still, Murdock earned $350.
“It was different to play for money, that’s for sure,” Murdock said. “The difference is every shot matters more. You’re not going to win every time, but you can still finish high and make some money.
“At this level, it is about staying afloat. When you’re not in the lead as an amateur, it is easy to get bummed that you are not going to win. As a pro, you have to stay focused, because you can still make enough money to go on to the next tournament.
“The pressure is different. I like it a little more because I am accountable for me. If I am playing for UW, you have all of your dudes on your back, and you’re playing for your team. You can take some different risks as a pro that you wouldn’t do on a team.”
Murdock said he was about 2 years old when his dad first took him to Jacoby Golf Course. He knew right away that golf was his sport. He’s played numerous rounds on the par 70, 6,855-yard Jacoby course, and growing up, he had dreams of playing on the PGA Tour. However, it wasn’t until his last two years at UW that Murdock thought playing golf for a living was a realistic goal.
“Early in college, I realized (the game and competition) was a lot tougher than I thought,” he said. “Late in college, I gained some confidence and played well in some tournaments. I had the drive and passion, and if I was playing good, I had the mindset that I was pretty tough to beat. You have to think that way, in any sport.”
Murdock played in the Laramie Open as an amateur the last three years, but this will be his first time as a pro. He said a couple of days before today’s first round that this event has a similar feel to his pro debut in Riverton.
“At the end of the day, you just have to play good golf,” Murdock said. “You can’t worry about winning. Things are going to happen, and the chips will fall where they will.
“You have to be resilient. There will always be things that happen that frustrate you and knock you down. You have to manage those things the best you can. The course is looking good, the rough is thick, and there are some good names here.”
Murdock has a busy month ahead of him. On Monday, he plays in a qualifying event in Fort Collins, Colorado, for the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly the web.com Tour) event later in the month in Berthoud, Colorado. Thursday through Sunday of that week is the Wyoming Open in Cheyenne, where Murdock is the defending champion, having won last year as an amateur. Then there is the Colorado Open July 25-28. Murdock said he received an exemption to play in that event.
Murdock also said he plans to go to qualifying school for the Korn Ferry Tour. If that doesn’t work out, he will try to qualify for other PGA developmental tours that could take him to Canada, Latin America or China.
But for now, Murdock’s focus will be to play well on his home course for the first time as a professional.
“My game feels good. I’ve worked hard to hopefully get a good result,” he said.
Joe Jensen, Jacoby Golf Course manager, head professional and director of men’s and women’s golf at UW, has worked hard to put the Laramie Open on the golf tournament map in the region, and that hard work is starting to pay off.
There will be 82 professionals and 31 amateurs in this year’s field. The prize purse is more than $55,000, and $15,000 is the largest winning payout of any tournament in Wyoming. Last year, the winner earned $10,000.
The tournament’s growth has been helped by its title sponsor, Toyota of Laramie.
“We are all very proud of how we have grown in a short time,” Jensen said. “The community has been so responsive. More than 50 percent of the players are being housed this week by members here at Jacoby. It has the feeling of community engagement.”
Defending champion Jimmy Makloski of Pueblo, Colorado, is in this year’s field. So is the 2017 champion, former UW golfer Ryan Wallen.
Current UW golfer Jared Edeen of Cheyenne will play as an amateur. He won last week’s Wyoming State Amateur at the Cheyenne Country Club. Other UW golfers in the field include Tyler Severin and Kirby Coe-Kirkham.