Author Michael Murphy on 'Golf in the Kingdom'
This is Alan ship. I am delighted to be joined by Michael Murphy author of Golf in the Kingdom still going strong eighty nine Michael. Thank you for doing this well. It's a pleasure. You have such a unique place in the game Euro Golfing Kindo as in your early forties. I'M NOT GONNA say it was a Lark but it was a you're not you're not a Gulf writer. You're not a novelist it just emerged from you in ever. Since you've been this Oracle you've been this grand old man of letters in the game you you tell shape how think about it. So are you still tickled that all these years later people are still finding this novel enjoying it? Well I I love it. I could say channel that because it was not only the first book I wrote the First Book I never tried to ride and I started it as I was turning forty and it was published in one thousand nine hundred ninety two forty seven years ago so when I was forty one so here we are now forty eight years later and it has. His Life Taught Me. I could ride so that in itself was an enormous pleasure and a big force to shape by subsequent life. I never thought of myself as a writer. My brother Was the designated writer in our family might and he had been a successful novelist and my grandfather had delivered John. Steinbeck and Salinas or you and I were both born and You know rules can get us. Signed the kids growing up and I was supposed to be a doctor and Than the more for me Thought I'd be a psychiatrist. And then got to Stanford and found myself in class on comparative religions of that led me to the philosophy and the way of life that shaped me ever since when I was nineteen and twenty but never along the way there was thought. Start writing books so anyway. When I sat down to write this book really did come in a flood. And it's Been living in me ever since I've written eight books now but that one If it were to be one of my children Children it would be among my books. It was my first child by far the most successful and I would say influential. Books are mysterious things. I like to say sometimes. Ufo's identified writing objects you W os or you are os. Son identified reading objects that can open worlds to people. And that's what's actually happened with this book with golf in the Kingdom one of the things about our shared hometown of Salinas which is just a dusty little farming community in the Central Valley known to John. Steinbeck doesn't have that much else to recommend it. It's not that far from pebble. Beach Golf links which figures prominently in my life story and and was important part of Gulf education. So tell us about your early days of playing pebble with with your brother and of course guys would haunt the Cosby Klanbake back. When he was really a big deal with Hogan snead Nelson and Bing crosby's the star in the world so is important from Stamford but it starts with your golf education before that while. That's right I mean we've had very fortunate childhoods you and I and my brother and Yes we would there be there at the crosby so I get to follow Ben Hogan around and watched him up close and personal before and after his accident. Which was in I guess January of Nineteen forty-nine so he missed that whole year in the hospital but he used to partner with Bing crosby and that was fun and Johnny Weissmuller who was the Great Olympic champion of became Tarzan. And the movies anyway. It was those great events and of course plane pebble which to this day remains by far my favorite course and it has to be. I mean there's of course in the world I think more beautiful than pebble. There are others that when you look at them would be beautiful. But to match the incredible range of moods it gets into with the shifting light the shifting fog the filaments of fog that cut across the fairways and all but anyway quyen pebble seen Some of the players in particular Hogan up close definitely was an influence on on golfing. The King wrote about it will hoge himself makes a handful of cameos in the text. Including what was it? The moved you so much about him well his magnetism on the course then he won eight out of eleven majors. He played over that period from forty eight to fifty through fifty three and he After the accident he paid just eighteen tournaments through fifty-three thickening one ten of them. He won virtually every major so he was the top of the game. He was to golf then way. Tiger Woods has been also the quality of his presence and when he would crack this out Just by the second hole at pebble for those who have been developed. Now it's then built up but there was a big field of practice in the pros as well as the onlookers. Got To sit down and watch him. Maybe there'd be hundred. Fifty people big big arena there watching him practice and it was a sight to behold because he had an immense repertoire of shots to fade to draw low high and the silence and that meant a huge impression on me and. I'm sure that as I sat down to write though I didn't plot the book or shape the book deliberately around him that influence. I'm sure was like an acorn growing into this conscious. Us of what the game could be as a kind of If you WANNA call it Yogi you can call it contemporary. You can call Chamonix even exercise golf itself is what in the eastern martial arts. Would you could call a Kata which is a series of movements. That trigger it is said are esoteric anatomy that is the complete person we are both in the flesh and in our soul are in the consciousness itself and golf swing. You could argue is an unnatural. Act It's not like running or throwing which are species learn to do and could do To survive. But you don't take a tee up a ball and hit it at the on charging tiger you know as a member of the tribe so it's an acquired skill that requires the most gypsum concentration and commitment to play it. Well and for this reason he and other reasons it evokes corresponding states of mind which can be interfered with with strong emotions whether rage or grief or sorrow which can produce by this fiendish challenge to get this small ball into this tiny hole and to go after four five hours over the course of four miles. You know. It's on the face of an absurdity. A why are we doing this? And that can occur to while playing. Why am I doing this but you do it? And you have these incredible pleasures and experiences and then as I've discovered through Responding to the book experience you have to call super-normal Mr Cool or cold. In other words the game can do that and It helps to be in a beautiful place like Pebble Beach. The you bring to this conversation. Just leaps off the page. I mean that's I think why the book is in bird because as you say it's this pursuit of ours is is maddening. It makes no sense but we do it anyway. And we were able to put a voice to having a correspondent. Brad faxon about the book and he said what I love about it is it made it okay to to speak of these things and you gave us in vocabulary to this experience at the golfers of had. But I you can get those tools so you matriculate to Stanford and as a fellow Salinas Person. I know it's not the most open minded place to Nag towns little conservative. But you have sort of a life altering experience stafford and what exactly happened well. I was so inspired by this professor. Frederic Spiegelberg he them a born and raised in Germany and Taught was teaching Stanford Comparative Religions so I got exposed to eastern philosophy and meditation contemplation than and particularly the world view of Indian philosopher. A named Sheera window who had been educated in England very elite education. His family had instructed his patrons in England never to let him speak any Indian language so he wanted to English but he was a philosopher and writer kind of a renaissance figure and developed a worldview. That's been the most basic influence on me. There are many influences of prompted me to do what I've done and of course the mystery is. Why chose this story? I could have gotten so many other directions but I consider myself very lucky. A Norman Mailer. The writer argued that every aspiring writer is given one free one by God and that was my free one and it was the first one and it in turn golf in the kingdom has shown me that this birth of new capacities is much more common than most people realize because immediately upon publication people started letting me know about their mystical experiences called experiences on golf courses. I wrote the book on some inspiration but I if you had asked me then that people would be having experiences you know immediately lawyer. New York wrote to me and was just couldn't get over this book. It helped him understand that. How on this particular occasion he'd been standing on the T. of four hundred yard and there were no players between him and his forces have been the green said he could see clear. A ball marker the size of a dime on this whole quarter of a mile away. Two of his playing partner couldn't even see the green. I got it was there. So he wondered. Is this the sort of thing you're talking about or a woman rights to me right away and says the yearbook helped me in? Because not long ago I was playing the eighteenth hole of at my Country Club as the sun was setting and when we got to the green the sun had set but it was still shining through the green and I felt that maybe this was some after glow on my is some retinal shock or something but when they went into the clubhouse who shining through the walls and it shown like that for three days and I was in an exaltation and thank you for writing the book because I found author who bite understand this experience so when you then I started getting these things. It pushed me in the direction of seeing the genius of sport to elicit this experience but not reported by sportswriters very often. You know there've been a few writers who have glimpsed this John Updike. He recognized this and Bernard Darwin. You know the great writer grandson. Charles Darwin he read the links of either down one of his short stories. I mean he certainly could see it. The mystery of golf by Arnold Hall Taint. So there's been a vein of golf writing that shows this power of the game not only to enchant but to reveal these capacities so that in turn has led me into other sports. And so I've been out to meet with coaches and players of ever since about what you would call the inner game of Sport and that Inter has led me to appreciate how prevalent it is in everyday life but not commonly discussed and recognized until recently. Thank you God for giving me go for the Kingdom as my first book.