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A special opportunity

Sun - 5/28/2018

Over the last 50 years athletes from all over the world have had a unique opportunity that could seem unthinkable otherwise through the Special Olympics.

The organization has helped athletes with intellectual disabilities try new sports, travel the world and serve as ambassadors in their own sense.

Yuma resident Brian Murphy will get a new experience altogether in two weeks as he goes on a trip through the Special Olympics to Austria to represent the United States as a golfer. Murphy will visit Austria from June 5-12 to play in the Special Olympics Sommerspiele. The actual ceremonies will last from the 8th to the 11th and it will be his first trip to Europe.

Athletes from 12 different countries will participate in the many sporting events throughout the week.

"I'm probably (most looking forward to) a story to tell people that I not only went overseas, but I went for a purpose. To play golf," Murphy said.

He says he's most looking forward to exploring and learning about the area.

"The scenery, the train rides, I don't know if we're going to do any excursions, but I hope we do," Murphy said.

Murphy, who will be 29 on May 31, suffered from medulloblastoma when he was eight years old. Medulloblastoma is a type of brain cancer and it damaged an area of the brain that aids in development. It is the most common type of brain cancer for children, and between 250 and 500 children are found to have medulloblastoma each year in the United States.

Prior to his cancer Murphy was involved in regular education programs while growing up in Spokane, Washington. He played soccer and was involved in almost everything as a child.

As the years went by he became more and more involved in Special Olympics, which gave him a chance to try a little bit of everything. In addition to golf, he's played soccer, baseball, tennis, track, swimming and bowling.

He moved to Yuma about four years ago to stay with his mother, Patty Murphy. She lives at Cocopah Bend golf course, and naturally he started spending more time on the course.

"I was never very serious about golf until I moved down here," Murphy said. "It helps because my mom lives on a golf course."

Murphy will be accompanied on the trip by his golf coach Tom Harrison. He and Harrison will golf as a team by trading shots on the course. With the two of them playing as a team there is some strategy to what they have to do. Instead of thinking for yourself and trying to get the ball as close to the pin as possible, the golfers will need to think about how to give their teammate an easier shot.

"There's a lot because it's taught me that I have to lead my shot where it makes an easier shot for him, as opposed to when I play myself I just hit for the pin," Harrison said.

"I just tell him to put it by the flag," Murphy joked.

The pair will be playing at the Golfclub Am Attersee, which is on Attersee (Lake Atter), located about 30 miles Northeast of Salzburg.

They have been working together for about four years and and have developed a rapport. Harrison, who got more seriously into golf five years ago to aid his recovery from throat cancer, has coached Murphy through those years.

"The reason I'm playing golf is that five years ago I had throat cancer," Harrison said. "To recover from throat cancer I started playing golf. It's kind of cool, because I probably wouldn't be playing golf if I wouldn't have gotten sick."

Murphy and Harrison practice a couple times a week at Cocopah working on one thing or another, or sometimes just going out to hit the ball a little bit.

"Just whacking the ball (is his favorite part)," Murphy said. "On a good drive I can maybe hit it 200 yards. On my good drives I average 180-185. I don't know how often I hit good drives."

Harrison has his own way of coaching Murphy. Instead of dwelling on each shot he lets the play happen and they find a way to work out of the jams one shot at a time.

"I haven't tried to change anything," Harrison said. "I just try to give him ideas and let him go. I think it works well. When he slices a ball instead of beating on him so that he gets a hook, we'll just play the slice and deal with the issue. Now it isn't always there. Sometimes he'll hit it straight."

When he isn't playing sports Murphy has a full-time job as a Certified Nursing Assistant. He works as live-in care for an elderly man, and prior to that he worked in a nursing home. He has worked in healthcare for a decade.

"I've always been a patient person, especially one-on-one I don't get frustrated. I can take my time (helping)," he said.

"He's very dedicated," Brian's mom Patty Murphy said. "I think it has a lot to do with how he's caring for someone's health."


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