TURBO MAN AT THE TOP
He doesn’t wear a bucket on his head when he attends Manawatu rugby matches, but rest assured that Dean Murphy, the CEO of New Zealand Golf, is a passionate fan of the Turbos rugby team.
Reason being that he was born in Palmerston North, was educated at St Peter’s College — the same college that shaped current PGA Tour professional Tim Wilkinson — studied at Massey University and started his working life there with Lion Breweries.
Murphy, who is into his sixth year at the helm of New Zealand golf, says of his home town: “It’s where I first developed a passion for golf.”
Both his father and grandfather played golf, and because there were always clubs around the house, young Dean took to swinging them.
Then, when Murphy attended university his daily schedule became lectures in the morning and golf in the afternoon with a group of fellow students.
“None of us kicked on as golfers as Tim Wilkinson did,” says Murphy, “but we all became passionate social golfers. The best I got to was a three handicap, although I currently play off a seven.”
Scoring a hole-in-one at the par-4 sixth at Paraparaumu Beach in 1998 remains the highlight of his playing career.
Into his 20s, Murphy headed for the UK, on a six month holiday — or so he thought. He stayed 10 years.
Although he kept his hand in with the occasional round of golf — the sport remained a constant as his career unfolded — his main focus was on the travel company he ended up running.
Having launched his business career in a sales and marketing role with Lion Nathan, he flourished as manager of the travel company that specialised in festivals, such as the Oktoberfest, and sporting events, which included handling All Black supporters groups.
“It’s where I got a thirst for managing,” he says. “The company achieved some great things, moving up to ten thousand people a year.”
After a decade operating in the UK, Murphy reasoned he should return to New Zealand and start functioning “like a proper person”.
So in 2006 he returned to the land of the Turbos, settled in Wellington and took up a contract with New Zealand Post, which he reasoned would develop his corporate experience. But after six months he concluded the corporate world wasn’t for him and when he saw New Zealand Golf was advertising a commercialsponsorship role, he applied.
The rest, as they say, is history. When CEO Bill MacGowan fell ill in 2009, Murphy stepped up on a temporary basis, becoming chief executive the following year.
During his term in charge New Zealand golfers, headed by Lydia Ko and Danny Lee, have prospered on the world stage. Murphy admits that sometimes he has to shake his head to believe what Kiwis are achieving around the world.