DANVILLE – For Ryan Murphy, the nerves that used to come with playing in front of a big gallery have pretty much disappeared. That will happen when you spend your summers playing in big-time tournaments against some of the country's best players where the number of spectators could rival that of some low-end professional tournaments.
At Tuesday's Class A regional tournament at Harrison Park, the spectators were out and Murphy was his customary cool. He shot a 1-over-par 72 (36-36) that was the day's best round for St. Thomas More, which won the team championship by 5 strokes over Monticello. Murphy's performance was only bested by Monticello's Corbin Sebens, who carded a 71.
"It's definitely helped me playing in front of a lot of people in the past because you get used to the pressure," Murphy said. "The first time a lot of people were out there it was really hard, but it's gotten better. I still get a little nervous, but I'm definitely more calm now."
Most recently, Murphy faced a big crowd at the Champaign-Urbana Twin City Open. Playing against guys who have been golfing longer than he has been living, Murphy handled himself well there, too, finishing in 11th place and winning the award as the field's top junior golfer.
"Those guys have way more experience than I do, but I feel like I can play with just about anybody in Champaign," Murphy said. "It's great because those guys will give me tips and are very supportive."
On Tuesday, Murphy was supportive of his playing partners, complimenting good shots but offering no tips. He knocked home two birdies and hit 17 greens in regulation en route to his 72. His only hiccup was a double bogey on No. 9. His 72 was 2 strokes better than his average, but like any competitive golfer, he thought he could have scored lower.
"I'm happy with 72, but as well as I was hitting it I would like to have done better," he said. "I definitely need to work on my putting because I didn't make any putts today. That will come around."
Tim Murphy was pleased with his son's round, but he also thinks Ryan might have left a few shots on the course.
"I think he hit it pretty solid," said Tim Murphy, St. Thomas More's coach. "He didn't beat up on the par 5s, which is what he normally does, but it was good. It was a good round."
Of the six Sabers playing Tuesday, Murphy was the only one to shoot below his posted average entering the regional. Freshman Nathaniel Khachaturian equaled his average, carding a 79.
"We played pretty solid today but not great," Ian Tate said. "Ryan was the only one that went reallow, so that was big for us. I'm always pulling for him to do good, and he went out and did that today."
Milford's Charles Hopkins finished second with a 78 at Cardinal Creek. Watseka's Brandon Moyer shot an 83 and tied for fifth and Matt Pence shot a 90 to also qualify for sectionals. Iroquois West's Zach Villwock was ninth with an 86. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Wade McGuire (90) also qualified.
Mark Klinger (77) tied for second and Wes Dukeman (81) tied for seventh to help Arcola-Arthur finish second at Effingham Country Club. Zach Lane (82) finished tied for ninth to help Sullivan finish third. Tuscola's Kurtis Kin-youn shot an 87 to advance.
Jacob Pratt shot an 85 for Ridgeview and advanced.
Clinton's Shawn Evans (83) qualified for sectionals.