HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- Jake Murphy will sit down and talk golf and baseball all day. Just don’t ask the admitted “die-hard Phillies fan” about “Jersey Shore,” the popular MTV reality show.

“It’s a garbage show,” he says, smiling, although it’s easy to tell he’s being quite serious. “I hate it.”

Forgive him, you fans of Snooki and Pauly D. You see, Murphy, a sophomore on the Coker College golf team, is from Hamilton, N.J., and has spent many a vacation day in and around Seaside Heights, where the show is recorded.

And invariably, almost any time someone finds out he’s from Jersey, he gets some kind of question about “Jersey Shore.”

“Always,” he says. “It always comes up. Every kid I play with in tournaments.”

So while Murphy might not give a rip about what’s going on with Mike “The Situation,” he is concerned with another situation: How is he going to navigate his way around the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals in Muscle Shoals, Ala., this week, trying to win himself and Coker a national championship?

Murphy got to this point by finishing with a 2-over 218 in the three-day South/Southeast super regional last week. It was good enough for fifth place, which guaranteed him a spot in the national championship tournament. It was the second-best score at the event among individuals not on an advancing team.

That in itself is quite an accomplishment. But for Murphy, it’s not quite good enough. At least not now, not with a chance to bring the school its first national title of any kind.

“My goal is to not be settled with just making it there,” he said. “I have to keep doing what got me there.”

Any golfer can guess what that is: Hitting fairways and greens and making a few putts. Especially making a few putts.

“That’s what it always comes down to,” he said. “It’s what I struggle with the most. But when I get on a roll, I can get it going sometimes.”

He and Coker coach Tommy Baker flew to Alabama on Saturday. Murphy said he would take plenty of notes and formulate a plan during today’s practice round, a plan he guesses will become somewhat useless at some point during Monday’s first round.

“I always have a plan,” he said. “But I also find usually that it’s golf and a lot of plans don’t work. It’s more about attitude and being patient. Most times, a plan isn’t going to work all 18 holes.”

The patience part, Murphy admits, has been tough to nail down — “When I was younger, I had a real temper,” he says.

But with the help of Coker assistant Jim Lemke, Murphy says he has worked on it, developing a useful pre-shot routine, thinking more positively and “not getting down on myself.”

And it’s easier said than done.

“It’s ridiculously hard,” he said. “It takes a really long time to get there. But it’s all about patience.”

If Baker will preach anything to his student this week, that will be it.

“It’s just the old adage, one shot at a time,” the coach said. “And most importantly, understand that his race isn’t over yet. He’s still got three rounds of competitive golf left.”

So does Murphy have a real chance at winning?

“Absolutely it’s realistic,” Baker said. “He’s able to process information really quickly on the course and then adjust and adapt quickly, make good decisions and make good shots.”

For Murphy, though, the week will be about more than just himself. He’s the first Cobra to advance to the national championship tournament since the men’s team made it in 2006. Chris Taylor made it as an individual in 2002 and 2003.

It’s a chance to bring the school some long-awaited hardware.

“I represent Coker and I’d love to bring them a national championship,” he said. “It would be pretty cool.”

Way cooler than “Jersey Shore,” anyway.

ARTICLE ORIGINAL APPEARED IN FLORENCE MORNING NEWS, SUNDAY MAY 15, 2010 -  http://www2.scnow.com/sports/2011/may/14/cokers-murphy-has-shot-glory-ar-1844758/

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