My week at the PGA Merchandise Show has come to a close. What is always one of the best weeks of the year was a bit melancholy this year. In years past I would have spent the past five or six days with my colleagues in Orlando covering the show, playing golf, eating a few nice meals, seeing old friends and testing out new golf clubs and accessories.
I have always traveled to the show with two of my closest friends and colleagues, Dan Shube and Mike Murphy. We would spend our days chasing stories and checking out the latest in golf. Our evenings would be filled with a bit of fun as we would drop by the Golf Channel to see Mike's son James, who works in production there. We would sit down on our final night and enjoy a wonderful meal and talk about the week, trading stories of what caught our eye.
This year Mike couldn't make it. Two years ago he started a battle with cancer. It was worse than he let us know and his battle became difficult as the holidays neared. He became too weak to even walk to the bathroom, much less roam the one-million square feet of the Orange County Convention Center.
We visited Mike at Hospice on Saturday, our last day before heading to Orlando to cover the show. He didn't look well and we feared we may not see him again.
Early in the week, we checked in with him telling him over the phone what we were up to. We figured since he couldn't be there with us, we would do our best to bring it to him in some fashion.
Dan and I went about our week, covering the show as we always have. Gone, however, was the fun we usually have. We just weren't in the mood for our usual long nights out shooting pool and smoking cigars with our friends and colleagues. Mike would have laughed knowing that we didn't spend at least one night out until nearly dawn. Early to be and early to rise is Mike. We would drag ourselves into our condo after 4 a.m. to find Mike brewing a fresh pot of coffee. He would look at us with a fatherly face, tap his watch and say, "I don't even want to know what you boys have been up to."
I first met Mike well over a decade ago when he sent me an email asking to come on my radio show to talk about his recent trip to Ireland. I was excited to hear about it, as I have never been there, and getting guests live in the studio is always a treat.
He came into the studio and we immediately hit it off. The show went well and a few weeks later I asked him if he would like to come on again. "Yes!" was his emphatic reply.
The rest, as they say, is history. Mike and I became close friends. We would not only do the radio show together, but we played golf together, took our wives to dinner together, and more. Mike became family to us. Not just a big lovable guy, but a brother.
Conservative is one way to describe Mike. He didn't care for some of the loud fashion on the professional tours. He certainly didn't like the flat-billed caps and five-o'clock shadow look. He didn't like the idea of "men only" clubs allowing women to join. I would affectionately call him a "fuddy duddy" any time he got on his band wagon.
We called Mike from the Ireland booth at the show. He had many friends there and they all wanted to say hi and wish him well. It was one of his favorite hangouts on the show floor.
On our way home Thursday, we got the call. While we were somewhere along the Turnpike, Mike passed away. Even though I knew it was coming, to say I was devastated would be putting it mildly.
Not only have I lost one of my best and closest friends, but his wife, two sons, his sister and brother and all the rest of his friends have lost a wonderful man. Mike Murphy was a light in this world. I am honored to have been his friend.
One of our friends calls Mike, "Americas Member." He calls him that because no matter where we played it seemed that Mike would get the fortunate member's bounce. From now on, every time I get one of those, I am going to call it a "Murphy Bounce".
Mike, I love you. I miss you. I will try to celebrate you with every fortunate bounce in life that I get. Rest in peace my dear friend. One day we shall meet again.
James Stammer hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.