Murchison, a Canton resident and club pro at Towne Lake Hills Golf Club, qualified for the season’s final major through his top-20 finish at the PGA Professional National Championship, which took place last month at the Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, Calif.
Murchison finished in a tie for seventh place with a 1-over 287 in the four-round tournament, including consecutive days of 2-under 70 over the last two rounds.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “The best thing is that I get to test myself against the best in the world. I always want to know how my game compares to theirs. I’ve shot 65 at my home course, but I don’t know how that compares to what they shoot.”
With his experience in qualifying for the PGA, Murchison hopes to spearhead his own professional career in much the same way that tour regulars, like former Etowah High School standout Chris Kirk and Acworth resident Jason Bohn, have.
“I’m trying to make a living playing golf,” the 28-year-old Murchison said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. My goal for Kiawah Island is just to commit to each shot. If I can fully commit to each shot, then it won’t be a disappointment, no matter what happens.”
On Bohn and Kirk, he has connections with both. Murchison said he took a putting lesson from Bohn once, and Kirk used to work at Towne Lake Hills Golf Club before he turned pro.
“It just shows me that it can be done,” he said. “I see what they did and what they are doing now. All you have to do is keep working hard and believe that something special can happen.”
Before now, Murchison’s only professional tour experience had come only from events on the Web.com Tour, the former Nationwide Tour. Though he failed to make the cut at the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta and Stadion Classic in Athens, he said he learned a great deal from both experiences.
At this year’s Stadion, Murchison finished with a 1-under 141, one stroke shy of making the cut. At the South Georgia Classic in 2011, he finished at 5-over 149, missing the cut by five shots.
“It was a great learning experience on both of those,” he said. “I got to see what those (tour pros) are doing and where they are better than me. I noticed the short game is why they are better. I was able to tighten that up and work on my short game. I happened to miss the cut by one shot in the Athens tournament, but I was happy with how I played. I learned more in the Athens tournament that I used in (the PGA Professional National Championship). It was all because of those learning experiences that I (qualified).”
More than his time pitching and putting, Murchison was able to find out something else.
At the Yamaha Atlanta Open, a Georgia PGA sectional event mainly filled with fellow club pros that was played two weeks prior to the PGA Professional National Championship, Murchison finished tied for 23rd. He was 1 over for the two-round tournament, falling behind many of the club pros that he eventually beat to qualify for the PGA Championship.
“I’m learning how my brain works,” Murchison said.” I do better in outside events. I played well in the (Web.com) event, … When I’m around people that like to talk to me, I get distracted. I’ve got to learn to talk after the round. I get distracted all of the time in these other events. I can play golf when I’m focused. If I’m not focused, I’m a 2- to 4-handicap golfer. I can play some bad golf when I’m not focused.
“I think that was the final milestone. I got ticked off at myself for letting that happen. People don’t really know me in California, so I was able to do my own thing. That worked out very nicely. Next time I play at the Georgia section, I’m going to see how it works.”
With added focus and a more complete short game, Murchison will try out his improved game in several more tournaments before he competes against the best in the world at the PGA Championship. In the week before he goes to Kiawah Island, he will compete in the Georgia State Open, a four-day tournament that is the highlight of the Georgia PGA sectional schedule.
“It’s one of the biggest events in Georgia, besides the PGA events,” Murchison said.
Before the Georgia State Open, he will compete in the Berkeley Championship, at Berkeley Hills Country Club in Duluth. He won the tournament last year, on his way to having a stellar season that prepared him for this year’s success.