It’s the realisation of a boyhood dream yet Zach Murray is maintaining a philosophical approach ahead of his European Tour debut.
Murray has accepted a tournament invitation to play this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and boasts a 2020 European Tour card by virtue of finishing second on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
It’s what he has been working towards since watching the European Tour on TV as a kid yet in 12 months as a professional Murray has learned that the game is a greater test of your mentality than of your skill.
Admitting that the travel associated with professional golf poses issues for a person prone to homesickness, the 22-year-old who hails from Wodonga uses regular chats with mentors Ken and Rachel Little to maintain perspective.
He knows there will be difficult days on tour and others that will be celebrated – such as his New Zealand Open triumph last March – but that no matter the score he shoots his worth as a person doesn’t change.
“We’re all out there trying to shoot the best score we can, and there’s obviously that part where you’ve got to be so mentally strong. But what does mentally strong mean? It’s a huge answer to that question,” Murray muses.
“That’s sort what have I’ve been trying to work on, what triggers me to get into the right mental space, and I’m slowly getting there.
“I’m working with a guy, Ken Little and his partner, Rachel. We talk every day.
“It’s never about the golf, it’s just about being the best human you can be, because at the end of the day we are all human.
“There are going to be times where I’m going to be crappy, I’m going to swear and whatever, but the majority of the time I’m trying to remain calm, focused and just try and enjoy it the best as I can.
“I think that’s what I’m trying to work on, is just believe in myself. I know I’m a good player and I’ve won before, but sometimes you just have to believe in yourself.
“It’s only human to do that. I’m not afraid of those thoughts, it’s just what happens.”
It’s rare insight from one so young in both age and experience in professional golf.
Ranked as high as No.19 in the world as an amateur, the lanky, languid Murray turned professional shortly after claiming the 2018 Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open.
Further success followed soon after.
He earned a full Asian Tour card at Qualifying School, claimed the Blitz Golf event at Glenelg and shot 8-under in the opening round on his way to a two-stroke New Zealand Open victory, the first wire-to-wire winner since Sir Bob Charles in 1954.
It positioned him well early for a tilt at the Order of Merit title and while he couldn’t make up the necessary ground on Ryan Fox at the Australian PGA, Fox’s established status in Europe provided Murray with a way in.
A quarter-finalist at the British Amateur in 2017, Murray estimates that he has watched the official film of the 2016 Open Championship and the extraordinary duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickeslon at Royal Troon more than 50 times but knows homesickness will never truly go away.
Fortunately for Murray his girlfriend Amy’s family hails from south London, a base that this year will serve as his home away from home.
“I’ve always struggled going away from home. I just haven’t travelled that well,” Murray explained.
“Winning the New Zealand Open obviously gave me the financial leg-up just to be able to take a mate or take my girlfriend with me and it made last year basically possible.
“Two years ago I didn’t really want to travel overseas and play golf just because I just got super anxious about it.
“It just runs in the blood a little bit. I’ve done a huge amount of work on that and while I don’t think it’s any better than it ever was, it’s just that now I’ve got people around me to keep me comfortable.
“That’s just how life will be. And I love my golf, but I don’t love it enough to drive myself into the ground, because life’s too short to be stressing about that all the time.”
Other Australians in the field in Abu Dhabi are Hong Kong Open champ Wade Ormsby, Scott Hend, Jason Scrivener and Lucas Herbert along with Kiwi Ryan Fox.