On the Badger girls golf team, many of the athletes come in with little to no experience, picking up a golf club for the first time on the first day of practice. So when a seventh-grader confidently introduced herself to head coach Phil Huff at Hawk’s View Golf Club back in 2014, he could sense something was different.
“She introduced herself. She came over and said: ‘I’m Holly Murphy. I’m looking forward to coming to Badger. I’ll be there in a couple years, I really want to play golf,’” Huff said. “I knew then, as a seventh grader, I was excited, because in a couple of years we’re going to be really good.”
Five years later, Holly Murphy’s high school career has wrapped up, and sure enough, after setting a plethora of records and program firsts, she leaves her mark as the most accomplished player in Badger girls golf history.
Murphy first started playing golf when she was about four or five years old, although she did not get serious about it until she was 12, when she started playing in a PGA Junior League and attending tournaments around the state.
Before Murphy arrived, the Badger girls golf program had an up-and-down history.
After the team was founded in 2006, the program started strong, including a 2010 conference title early in Huff’s career with the team. However, the team then went into a bit of a lull for a few years before Murphy arrived.
She came in as a freshman and immediately played in the top slot despite teammate Madison Whitehead having been a solid number-one player the prior season. Murphy credits Whitehead for being a solid player behind her as motivation.
In that freshman season, the Badgers finished third in the Southern Lakes Conference tournament behind Union Grove and Waterford. The next year, Badger placed second behind Union Grove. Then in Murphy’s junior and senior seasons, the Badgers claimed the conference crown — something they had not done since 2010.
That incremental growth from one year to the next came in part because Murphy’s scores got lower each season, but also because her presence on the team lifted up her teammates.
“She really helped elevate the program. It wasn’t just because she’s the best player; she really helped the other girls pick up things. She’d spend extra time with every other girl, too, that asked her for help and advice,” Huff said.
Murphy’s individual successes were also notable for the Badgers.
As a sophomore in 2017, she shot a 72 in an early-season tournament to set the school record for 18 holes. Later that season, Murphy tied for third at the sectional meet in Mukwonago to become the first Badger girls golfer to earn a spot in the state championship.
When she traveled up to Madison to play in the event, her teammates joined her as spectators. And in seeing their friend and teammate on the course, they realized that making it to the state’s grand finale was an achievable goal.
“When I made it to state, half the team came out. Everyone that was on the team next year thought, ‘Wow, we could do this next year.’ I think just getting out there probably helped a lot,” Murphy said.
In Murphy’s junior year in 2018, the team did just that, demolishing the school record for a team performance by shooting a 347 to win the regional round before following that up with a second-place finish at sectionals to earn a team state championship berth for the first time. Along the way, Murphy won Badger’s first girls golf sectional title.
The team was not able to make it back to the state meet in Murphy’s senior season this fall, but she had another strong postseason, helping the team break its team record again with a 345 in the regional round. She then broke her own individual record at sectionals when she shot a 69 to win the sectional meet and advance to state for the third season in a row.
In her three trips up to Madison, she was always near the top of the leader boards, placing eighth as a sophomore, 10th as a junior and 15th as a senior.
Hoping to advance her golf career to the next level, Murphy sent out emails to college coaches across the country during her junior year. After visiting schools and talking with coaches over the course of a few months, she decided the best fit would be North Dakota State University, a Division 1 golf program in Fargo, North Dakota.
While she will no longer be on the team at Badger, her legacy will certainly live on in the Badger High record books. However, for the next couple of years, she will still be closely tied to the program, as her sister, Annie Murphy, finishes the final two seasons of her own golfing career.
Besides just that, Huff hopes her accomplishments and the attention those accolades brought to the Badger girls golf team will help inspire young girls in the community to pick up a set of clubs and work their way up to Murphy’s level.
Murphy, in fact, hopes they can surpass her.
“I hope someone from Badger wins state in the future — that would be pretty cool,” Murphy said.
For now, though, Murphy reigns as the best girls golfer the school has seen. Even four years ago, she never could have imagined where her career would take her.
“It’s pretty crazy. Going in, I just wanted to play golf,” she said. “And I really didn’t realize I was going to do as much as I did.”