Patrick Murphy used to spend more time on the ice than he did on the links.
Just like his favorite movie character, Happy Gilmore.
The senior UCLA men’s golfer, who was raised in Crossfield, Alberta, noted some similarities between himself and the fictional hockey player-turned-golfer.
“I admire Happy because he’s kind of this unpolished figure, and I see myself in the same way,” Murphy said. “I have aspirations to do things in a sport that is not heavily populated among rural Canadian players.”
Murphy began accompanying his father and uncle to golf courses before he turned 2, and he learned to skate and play hockey by age 4.
For over seven years, Murphy divided his time between the two sports, competing in hockey during the school year and devoting his summers to golf.
“Essentially, from when (Murphy) was 5 1/2 to about 13, we were traveling with his hockey equipment and his golf clubs at the same time,” said John Murphy, Patrick Murphy’s father.
Patrick Murphy said he always had a passion for golf. However, John Murphy said his son initially did not enjoy playing hockey. John Murphy asked his son to give the sport a chance, given its popularity in Canada.
“Early on, it was a time when (Patrick Murphy) didn’t enjoy hockey, and he didn’t want to go play,” John Murphy said. “I told him, ‘If you don’t like it, then we’ll stop, but at least give it a try.’ He found out he was really good at hockey, and then it took off from there.”
During his hockey career, Patrick Murphy played center and was known by teammates for scoring goals, earning the nickname “Hat Trick Patrick.” Peter Cissell, who coached Murphy from ages 11 to 12, recalled giving John Murphy a puck commemorating his son’s 100th goal of the season.
“(Patrick Murphy) was the top performer on the team I was coaching,” Cissell said. “He was a real natural athlete, but he also had mental toughness. He was a leader on the team, and he wanted everyone else to put in as much effort as he was putting in.”
While his hockey teammates went home after practice, Murphy said he stayed behind to hone his golf game. He fine-tuned his swing at the EagleQuest Golf Dome, a heated indoor golf range 45 minutes away from his home, during the winters.
“When most families would go home, (Patrick Murphy) would say, ‘Let’s go to the dome to practice and see my friends,’” John Murphy said. “His friends happened to be (30-year-old) men who loved to play golf. … Even to this day, he’s very comfortable with older people – sitting around, talking with them and telling stories.”
As time commitments became more intensive for both sports, Patrick Murphy realized that he could not juggle both sports forever.
Then an injury solidified his decision.
The 13-year-old Murphy hurt his elbow playing dodgeball at school with his classmates. His injury worsened from playing hockey, and he eventually underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery to take the broken cartilage out of his elbow socket.
Murphy took the summer off, mainly spending time fishing with his cousins. Despite his injury, he always traveled with a putter, seeking to improve his golf game even though he could only putt with his left hand.
Murphy slowly worked his way back to full strength – progressing to wedge and iron shots and hitting with his driver less than three months after his surgery.
Prior to his injury, Murphy had started receiving offers from summer AAA hockey teams.
“(Hockey) wasn’t something I was passionate about doing during the summertime, as I had always considered that time for me to play golf,” Murphy said. “I also think, with my mom not wanting me to have any more injuries, … she really liked the fact that I played golf.”
So Murphy decided to focus on golf full-time. He competed in the Future Collegians World Tour and won player of the year honors in 2012. United States college coaches began recruiting him by the time he entered high school.
Murphy received 22 offers, but he gravitated toward UCLA’s Southern Californian sun – a dramatic change from his Canadian hometown.
“Mainly, I looked at schools where it didn’t snow,” Murphy said. “I really wanted to go to a strong golf program, and both of my parents really wanted me to come to UCLA over the other schools because of its academic prowess.”
As a Bruin, Murphy earned three Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention honors. He plans to turn professional after graduating in June and will travel to Europe to play in the fall.
Despite his professional golf endeavors, Murphy said he sometimes wonders what would have happened if he never sustained the elbow injury that jeopardized his career in the rink.
Cissell said barring injury, Murphy would have found success no matter what sport he chose.
“(Murphy) was an athlete that chose golf,” Cissell said. “He wasn’t a golfer that was playing hockey. … He could have done just as well in hockey. If that was where his true passion (laid), I think the opportunities would have opened up for him.”
Despite giving up hockey long ago, Murphy said he still applies what he learned on the ice to the golf course today.
“The big thing that I took from hockey going into golf was the aggressive mindset,” Murphy said. “In golf, if you take your mind off for a moment, you probably will hit a bad shot, while if you’re not mentally in it in hockey, you’re a liability to your team.”
Murphy said he hopes to be a role model to a future generation of Canadian athletes through an athletic journey mirroring that of Happy Gilmore.
“There’s a line early in (“Happy Gilmore”) that says, ‘(My mother) moved to Egypt, where there’s not a hockey rink within 1,500 miles,’” Murphy said. “Where I was born, there’s not a grass golf course within at least 500 miles. … I just think athletics as a whole for (Canadians) is such an incredible way to bond in a country where you’re inside for half the year – whether it’s golf or hockey, I’d really like to be able to pay it forward someday.”