When Ryan Murphy graduated from Lovington High School in 1992, he did not know what his future held. He knew he was going to college and had a field of study picked out, but things change and Murphy’s future, it was going to change as well.
Near the end of his college career, Murphy realized that his chosen field of study was not one that was going to make him much money.
“I was a criminology major. It was something I was interested in reading about,” Murphy said. “By the time I realized I am probably not going to make any money with this major, I was already two and a half years into it and it was too late to change course. So I got my criminology degree.”
That change involved his love of golf from his childhood and school. And it was his father who instilled that love of golf, a former Lovington High School coach.
“I loved growing up in Lovington. It was a small town and all about sports and you knew everybody,” Murphy said. “My mom and dad were both school teachers and my dad was a coach, he coached all different sports. He got us into golf. I have two brothers and a sister and he got us into golf at a young age.”
Murphy played five years of varsity golf at Lovington, his eighth grade year and all four years of high school.
After graduating from Lovington, Murphy went to University of New Mexico where he studied criminology and was a four-year letterman for the Lobos. He helped the Lobos win the 1996 Western Athletic Conference championship. He played in the NCAA Championship all four years of college. His coach at UNM was John Fields.
Between 1997 and 2005, Murphy dabbled in pro golf for a while, but never made the PGA Tour.
“I played for a couple of years professionally and I never made it to any significant level,” he said. “I played in a handful of Nike Tour events, which is now the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I never got my PGA Tour card, but I did do it for a couple of years as my livelihood, and quickly realized I need to be in coaching.”
In 2001, he started working at New Mexico as an assistant men’s golf coach for Glen Millican. He stayed with UNM through the 2005 season. According to Murphy, the move to Texas was not for him, but for his then-girlfriend (Terry Furuta) who got a job opportunity and he told her she couldn’t pass it up.
“She was offered (an athletic trainer) position at the University of Texas to work with Jody Conradt and her basketball team,” Murphy said. “It was a tremendous opportunity to go to Texas. … I told her you need to take that opportunity. You need to do that for your career.”
While Furuta took the job, Murphy found his first head coaching job at St. Edwards University, a NCAA Division II school in Austin.
“I coached at St. Edwards for three years,” Murphy said. “In 2008, Coach Fields invited me across town to be his assistant coach at Texas.”
Murphy has known Fields for a long time and the relationship between the two goes back many, many years. That relationship helped bring the Lovington graduate to Texas.
“He (Fields) coached my older brother at New Mexico, then I played for coach Fields at New Mexico,” Murphy said. “I have known him for a long time. He was very influential in bringing me to Texas.”
The Lovington graduate started coaching at Texas in the 2008-09 season. Fields, his former UNM coach, hired him as an assistant men’s golf coach. He just finished his eighth year as the women’s head coach.
“I have been in Texas for 14 years,” Murphy said. “I have been the head women’s coach here for eight years and for six years before that, I was an assistant on the men’s side.”
While with the men’s team, Murphy worked with and/ or helped bring several topnotch players to Austin.
“I had some exposure to some great players early in my career here. Players like Jordan Spieth, Brandon Stone, Beau Hossler. I recruited Scottie Scheffler and Doug Ghik before I moved over to the women’s side,” Murphy said. “So I had some great experiences with my six years on the men’s side. We won the national championship in 2012. That included Jordan Spieth and Cody Gribble and Dylan Frittelli, so there were some terrific moments there.”
Murphy said one of his strengths as a coach is recruiting. While he took over the women’s program for the 2014-15 season, it took a while to build the roster with players he scouted and recruited.
“I started on the women’s side in 2014,” Murphy said. “We just seemed to get better each year. You have got to have the players, there is no doubt about that. I think my strength is recruiting players and I brought that to the table on the women’s side. We have done a good job in recruiting and as a result of that, we have had quite a bit of success.
“It was kind of slow going in ‘14, ‘15, and ‘16, but once we got to 2017, that was kind of my first real class and it included Kaitlyn Papp and Agathe Laisne who are now on the LPGA Tour,” the Loving-ton graduate continued. “It also included Sophia Schubert, she was a transfer from Auburn who came to us after her freshman year and she ended up winning the US Amateur in 2017. That is when things really kind of started to snowball and we really started to have some big time success.”
Murphy’s team won the 2017 Big XII championship. They won it again in 2018 and again in 2019. However, the quest for a fourth straight title was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2018 and ‘19, we finished the season ranked No. 1 in the country and we had won six times,” Murphy said. “In 2020, we were ranked No. 1 again, and I felt like we had the best team in the country that year, but obviously we got cancelled halfway through the spring. … I don’t even like to think about that. It was very bitter. Even to this day, I am not happy about it.”
While his team did get to play again in 2021, the season was not the same. Schedules were shorter and restrictions hampered many.
“It was bizarre,” he said. “We were dealing with COVID still and all the protocols and whatnot. It was just kind of a weird season for everybody.”
Well, during his eight years as the women’s head golf coach at Texas, he has been named Big XII Coach of the Year four times. His most recent award was announced in June. The other three came in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Since taking over the women’s program, his teams have won four Big XII championships, including the 2022 championship
“It starts with the players,” Murphy said. “We have done a good job recruiting. Over the last six years, we have had several All-Americans. I think we are among the best in the country as far as producing All-Americans. We do a good job getting the right people here and as a consequence of that we are able to compete at the national level.”
So, that brings us back to the Coach of the Year award and just how good a coach is Murphy? Well, he currently has three of his former players playing on the LPGA Tour. Laisne, Papp, and Schubert are all playing professionally.
“It is validation with the program and what you are instilling in them and teaching them, the platform you are giving them,” the former Lovington Wildcat said. “All of that at Texas lends itself to improvement and that is what we try and strive for. We are trying to launch our players into the next level, and so when they do get out there, it is a bit of validation for your program.”
As for Murphy’s former college athletes who have now turned pro, Papp and Schubert are currently playing in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Odessa, Texas. Schubert is tied for 23rd, seven strokes under par through the second round while Papp is tied for 87th, three strokes under par.
As sports continue to return to pre-COVID rules, Murphy is looking forward to the return of “normalcy.”
“Normalcy. I think we are all wanting that,” he said. “I want that. This year was definitely more normal than last year. … I feel like this coming season, we will be back, 100 percent to normalcy, operating exactly how we did in ‘18-’19 which is good. We all want that. I want that.”