Nayan Murdoch is chasing her dream again.
The 23-year-old Richmond golfer is fresh off a busy summer that concluded at stage one of LPGA Qualifying School — a 72-hole event played on three different courses in Palm Springs. Murdoch earned conditional status on the Symetra Tour — the LPGA’s development circuit — but, more importantly, came away knowing her comeback and hard work was paying off after a seven-year hiatus from the sport.
"Being there and seeing girls who had not stopped playing, I’m definitely on the right path,” said Murdoch. “I finished in the middle of the pack (in an international field of 360 players). I know if I put the time in to fix some of the little things then I can definitely get through to stage two (in 2020).”
Golf had pretty much been Murdoch’s life.
With her mom being a flight attendant, she spent plenty of weekends at Savage Creek watching her father on the range. By the time she was four, she was hitting balls off the tee with a cut down adult club. Two years later, she received permission from the legendary Harry White to play on his Junior Linkster Tour. Up until that point, the minimum age was 10 and the tournaments only featured boys.
Murdoch didn’t waste any time in making a name for herself.
Working with former LPGA player and now teaching professional Jennifer Wyatt out of Savage Creek, she produced three straight top 10 finishes at the Junior World Championships and was a fixture on Team Canada for six years. By the time she was 12, letters were already coming in from university programs.
She seemed destined for more success during her teenage years and ultimately a full-ride scholarship offer to a U.S. school. Life, however, is not a textbook.
“It was really special but as I kind of got older, things happened and life got complicated,” reflected the McMath graduate. “I think competing at an elite level like that with things happening was quite difficult for me to cope with. I walked away from the game when I was 14 which was the best thing for my mental health at the time.
“It was my whole identity pretty much so leaving it was quite dramatic. It was too much free time at a wrong age. I was running around being pretty wild and spent seven years trying to find myself.”
She did study yoga and meditation in the Bahamas, becoming a certified instructor but it was a health scare a little over two years ago that brought golf back into her life.
“I got really sick with a cardiac condition that I didn’t even know about as a very active human being. I was on bed rest for about a month,” said Murdoch. “I then tried to do some other activities like a workout but just found it so hard. I started golfing because it was what I could do. I fell in love with it again and realized I was actually still really good at this.”
Murdoch reached out to White who got her job as an instructor with a non-profit organization. She also began teaching private lessons while playing regularly too. She juggled all three for about 18 months until putting her energy full-time into a potential professional career.
She spent five months living in Mexico, preparing herself for qualifying school.
“Those seven years I spent trying to find that happiness again and I think was searching in all the wrong places,” Murdoch reflected. “The second I got back into golf my life opened up again. That’s how I knew I was on the right path.
“You can definitely feel some judgement from some people about the journey you are on but at the end of the day as long as you have unwavering faith in yourself and ability it really doesn’t matter. I believe our most valuable assets are our time and energy. If you have a goal you can utilize those two things and make anything happen.”
Murdoch keeps working on her game and will play in some local fall events on the Vancouver Golf Tour. Her 2020 schedule will include tournaments on the Pacific Northwest, Cactus and the Symetra Tours with her limited budget determining her destinations.
She says the biggest adjustment at the pro level is approaching the game differently than a casual weekend round or even as a standout junior. It’s about putting yourself in a position to use the strengths of your game.
“The intricacies of competitive golf are far more extensive than I ever appreciated when I was younger,” she added. “The hardest thing for me is figuring out how to move around a course. I can hit a shot anywhere you tell me too nine out of 10 times but you also need to know where to go in order able to score low. That is something that was beyond me.
“Since I got back I try to play in as many events I can to learn to be a competitor (at the pro level) and watch the people around me.”
Murdoch has launched her own Go Fund Me page to help cover the enormous costs that come with chasing her LPGA dream