TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – In many ways, a son’s biggest triumph can be a father’s greatest joy. Enter Murray Ellis.
He is the father of current Florida State men’s golfer Harry Ellis, who will compete as an amateur in the upcoming Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale on Thursday. Ellis’ first tee time in a major occurs at 4:25 a.m. EST/9:25 a.m. BST.
Murray can’t help but soak in each and every moment leading up to his son’s first drive in a major that is the oldest in professional golf, possesses its own mystique with it being links style and always bringing the weather elements into play. The Open Championship is perhaps the most unique major in golf, and rising redshirt senior Harry will be part of it.
Harry Ellis sank this putt to win the Amateur Championship.
The path to get here was not without its challenges for Harry, the biggest being when his mother, Tracey, passed away from cancer in December 2013. The loss of one of his most influential and special figures weighed heavily on him in all aspects, which makes his father even more proud of how great his turnaround has been.
“(It’s) one of immense pride,” Murray said when asked about the emotions he is going through heading into Thursday. “I have the emotions of keeping your feet on the ground and having solitude in watching your son play in The Open. I’m extremely pleased knowing how much hard work Harry has put in over the years mentally and physically, and for that I give massive credit to FSU.”
Ellis qualified for The Open Championship, and also earned exemptions to the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, by winning in miraculous fashion. On June 24, Harry squared off with Australian Dylan Perry in the match play final of The Amateur Championship held in Royal St. George. With five holes left to play, Ellis was 4 down and it seemed nearly impossible for him to stage a comeback. However, he played steady golf down the stretch while Perry continued to bogey, setting up a playoff that Ellis won on the 38th hole after recording a par.
To many, the comeback was startling. But not to his father, who has seen Harry work through challenges before.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Murray said. “I know when Harry’s very calm and when I looked at him I could see he was very calm and within himself. After he drove on the 14th I walked up to him, we had a chat walking down and he said ‘Dad I’m fine. I’m going to play golf these last five holes. Let’s see what happens.’ That shows he was calm and had the mental strength, and then as he started chipping away, and when he won the 17th and was one down with one to play, I knew then there was only going to be one winner.”
Ellis became the third player to win both the English Amateur and the Amateur Championship, and he achieved the dual feat at the youngest age ever. But for his recent successes, it pales in comparison to the way he has persevered after his mother passed away Personal tragedy struck, and though he shared in the difficult circumstances with his family, his ability to move forward was inspiring.
“Times were very difficult,” Murray said of losing his beloved wife. “Going to Florida State I think was a massive new for all of us, but I don’t think I realized as a father how much going to Florida State was going to make a huge difference for him. He was going through a personal tragedy with his mom, but it was helping him get over that. It was helping him as a person and getting over things emotionally, and it was also helping him with his golf.
“When I look back 3 ½ years ago, it seemed like a lifetime ago. It’s not until now where I see how he’s worked so hard and reached some pretty low levels dealing with a major tragedy and his confidence being very low, and seeing that built back up and improve and seeing all his hard work. I’m certainly in gratitude to everyone at Florida State who has given him all his support. He has his personal perseverance, mentally and physically, saying ‘I’m going to achieve what I want to achieve despite my tragedy.’”
It’s no secret the closeness Harry, Murray and his other brother shared with Tracey. She was a supportive mother who instilled the qualities Harry shows today, making him stand out as a student-athlete who would be a joy just to have dinner with. Harry continues to prepare for the moment he’s waited for with Tracey in the back of his mind.
“She was a fantastic mom,” Murray said in a reflective tone. “She supported both her boys, and in terms of Harry, she was always very supportive of his golf and believed in him. As a person, Harry is a lot like her. When you met Tracey you always remembered you met her. When you meet Harry Ellis, then you remember you met Harry Ellis. I think those qualities of keeping your feet on the ground, being very determined, being a very nice and kind person, those qualities passed on to Harry.”
Perhaps an opportunity like this was deemed unthinkable for Ellis a year ago, but don’t try telling that to his proud Dad. After playing sparingly in his first three years at FSU while still building back his confidence, Ellis exploded this past year with an All-America season where he recorded two Top-5 finishes, shot 12 rounds in the 60s, earned all-conference honors and participated for the European Palmer Cup Team.
“A year ago I knew he had the talent. You just prepare and practice and this is what you work for, it all just comes together for that tournament, and with sport it’s all about winning. It was a case of ‘this is going to happen,’ it was never a case of, ‘this isn’t going to happen.’”
Ellis will join Florida State Men’s golf alums Brooks Koepka, who won the 2017 U.S. Open, and Daniel Berger at Royal Birkdale. His triumphant whirlwind year continued this week with a practice round with Koepka, who has catapulted Florida State golf to new heights.
“You could see there’s a mutual respect there,” Murray said of his son’s practice round with Koepka. “I love how once you’re a Seminole you’re always a Seminole. When I look at Harry I don’t see that he’s out of place. He belongs in this field now. He can certainly prove it, and I’m very proud to see that.”
Harry’s father continues to admire the way his son has kept his feet on the ground and not gotten ahead of himself, although it’s also an expectation as well. Harry carries the same sense of maturity as a 21-year old today as he did when he was nine-years old, inheriting those values from his mother. The game of golf tightened an already strong bond with his dad, allowing them to travel around the world.
And when Harry gets a chance to deliver his first drive on Thursday morning, his father will try to stay in the moment. But it’s hard not to reflect on the man he has raised – someone who has battled back from the worst circumstances, has represented his country proudly, his school proudly and will continue to make a positive impact no matter the circumstances of this weekend.
Harry Ellis poses with family and friends in celebration following the Amateur Championship, including Murray with the FSU cap (Photo taken from @KGBGolf)
“I can’t put it into words,” Murray added. “Saying I’m so proud of him is an understatement. In terms of the man he’s grown into, he’s phenomenal. Although he’s my son, he’s a fantastic guy – he’s a sportsman and athlete, but at the same time he’s a great person with all the qualities you want. When I see all the reports and tweets that come out of FSU, it makes me so proud. It’s immeasurable. As a dad you want your children to grow up happy and healthy, but at the same time you want to see those qualities.”
Those qualities will be on display at Thursday’s Open Championship. Cheers to you, Harry.
• Florida State men’s golf head coach Trey Jones could not hold back his excitement for Harry Ellis and how he will soon realize a dream he always had:
o “Playing in the British Open to Harry in England is a lifelong dream. The memories of this week will last forever regardless of his future successes. As I have stated before, we are proud of all our players. We know the effort that Harry has put into getting himself in this opportunity. He deserves this and will make the most of it.”
• When asked what he thought was some of the biggest factors in Harry’s turnaround this year, Murray expanded on the topic:
o “I think consistency and confidence. Golf is very much an individual sport, even when you’re playing on the college team you have to be confident. There’s a phrase I say to Harry and it’s that there is class and confidence. He’s got class and he’s got confidence when he performs. He’s just been going out and playing golf and enjoying it, and what will be will be. The results will show how well you perform.”