(RALEIGH, NC) — Raleigh native Grayson Murray’s ascension to the PGA Tour has been nothing short of breathtaking. The former Leesville Road High School golfer earned his full-time PGA Tour card for the upcoming season by finishing among this year’s top 25 money winners on the Web.com Tour.
Murray finished 18th on the 2016 money list, earning $159,963. In addition, he finished first in the all-around ranking on tour. He enters the upcoming PGA Tour season, which starts in mid-October, on a roll after shooting back-to-back 64s to finish third at the Web.com’s second leg of its season-ending Finals.
“It's been a cool ride,” Murray said.
Murray’s feat is particularly impressive when you consider that the 22-year-old started the year with conditional status on the Web.com Tour and missed the cut in his first event. But after receiving a sponsor’s exemption into the Rex Hospital Open in May, Murray finished tied for 10th at TPC Wakefield Plantation. That earned him a spot in the next event, the BMW Charity Pro-Am, where he tied for eighth.
“Up until that point I hadn't made a dime. Guys had already played five or six events so I was already behind the eight ball,” Murray said. “It’s one thing to get an exemption, it’s another thing to take advantage of it.”
TPC Wakefield is one of 12 golf properties owned by the Raleigh-based McConnell Golf. In 2008, when he was a 15-year-old eighth grader, Murray was selected as one of five original McConnell Golf Junior Scholarship recipients.
The MCG Junior Scholarship is an innovative program designed to offer instruction, practice and playing opportunities to young golfers that may not have the financial ability to work on their games at first-class facilities. Certain criteria needing to be met, Murray was selected based on his level of talent, need, and commitment to the sport — as well as his proven dedication and value to the future of golf.
“I didn't grow up in a wealthy household. We were average,” Murray said. “I got (the McConnell Golf Junior Scholarship) in the eighth grade and it was perfect timing. It elevated my game so much just getting to go out to Raleigh Country Club every afternoon after school. Learning how to play that course. Putting in the hours out there was huge. I don't think I would have been the player I am without that scholarship. Five years at Raleigh Country Club was huge. That's a place where you can really improve your game. It was good preparation for college and then the pros for sure.”
Murray credits TPC Wakefield Plantation General Manager/Director of Golf Josh Points, who worked at Raleigh Country Club before moving to TPC Wakefield — also a McConnell Golf club — for being close confidante during his emergence in the national spotlight.
“Josh Points was very instrumental once I got (the McConnell Golf Junior Scholarship),” Murray said. “He really rolled out the red carpet for me at Raleigh Country Club. He's been a huge support all those years and he still is. He gave me advice from going off to college to what it was going to be like after college. He's just a really good friend.”
“I am very proud of this program that started in 2008 and seeing how well all the juniors like Grayson Murray have developed and matured both on and of the golf course,” said McConnell Golf Vice President of Golf Operations Brian Kittler. “These juniors were all talented and accomplished golfers when they entered the program but having access to our courses, instruction and practice facilities; they were able to take their game to the next level.”
Two years after becoming a McConnell Golf Junior Scholar, Murray, then 16, became the second-youngest player to make the cut in a Web.com Tour event when he played the weekend at the Rex Hospital Open. A fellow McConnell Golf Scholar, Carter Jenkins — a 2010 recipient who also played in the Rex as an amateur — similarly excelled in the amateur and collegiate ranks and currently sits No. 18 on the MacKenzie Tour money list thanks to three top-five finishes. Recent scholar Eric Bae finished fifth in his Wake Forest collegiate debut at Duke’s Rod Myers Invitational.
“The McConnell Golf Junior Scholarship is one of the most exciting and rewarding programs in which we’ve been involved,” said McConnell Golf Founder and CEO John McConnell. “Our company is committed to amateur and junior golf. Some of the best junior golfers do not have access to practice facilities and good courses. Our goal is to provide this access and supervision in hopes of helping these talented young players move to the next level of play, and possibly allow them to elevate to the point where golf can become a means of helping them receive financial assistance for higher education and even play beyond the collegiate level.”
Murray said he is now fully prepared to see his hard work pay off on golf’s biggest stage. “I dreamed of this as a little kid,” he said. “I learned a lot this year and met some good guys, but my ultimate goal was to get up there to the (PGA) Tour. Achieving that was definitely the biggest goal of the year. I've been dreaming about it since I was 7 years old.
“Seeing guys that are my age or one or two years older than me achieve success on the PGA Tour is motivating and reassuring that I have the game to compete out there from the start,” Murray said. “I don't think guys my age are intimidated by the older guys anymore. We are ready once we get out there.”