I was working on a column today at one of my many offices around downtown Rochester -- in this case, the Starbucks at the Kahler Grand -- when a young man walked by, then circled back, introduced himself and told me that if I was writing about Tom Murphy, I needed to know that he "touched a lot of people's lives."
Murphy was the long-time Rochester bar and restaurant owner who died in New York City Tuesday. Few details had been released by late today; he was 62 or 63, apparently, and was in the Big Apple for the long holiday weekend and to catch a Rangers playoff hockey game, according to a family member.
As well-known as Murphy was for his bars and restaurants, which over the years included Dooley's Lounge, McMurphy's Sports Bar, Aquarius and now Dooley's Pub, he was better known as a golfer who coached the Lourdes High School boys team for 29 years and had many championship teams and players.
As we reported in Wednesday's edition, he also happened to caddy for pro golfer Tony Jacklin at the 1970 U.S. Open at the brand-new Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska. Jacklin won by seven strokes, and Murphy called it the greatest thrill of his life.
I believe that one of his favorite places on earth was Augusta National.
I met Tom not long after I came to Rochester in 1994, and I'll assume it was because of a story or headline he was annoyed with. Tom was never bashful about complaining if he didn't like our coverage of police incidents at or near his businesses. We'd meet and typically agree to disagree, but he was reasonable and gracious, at least after calming down, and I have to admit I enjoyed sparring with him about how the news media works.
After he moved downtown and opened Dooley's in 2010, we became better acquainted. Just about anytime I was there, he was at the bar, no drink in front of him, reading a newspaper; he'd always stop by with fresh popcorn and chat. I've heard from employees that he treated them like kings, and I think a lot of customers will remember him for that, too.
A few years ago, Tom happened to play in a foursome with one of my brothers at Hazeltine, roughly 40 years after Murphy had caddied for Jacklin. They started talking, Tom told him he was from Rochester, my brother asked if he knew me and (according to my brother) he said, "Of course I know him -- he's an (expletive)."
I'm pretty sure Tom was joking. In fact, I reminded him of this story more than once and he got a kick out of it.
The young man who stopped me at Starbucks asked if we were going to write more about him and I told him we probably would. He said in an urgent way, as if he really wanted to make sure this was on the record, though he didn't want me to use his name: "The guy touched a lot of people's lives. If you figure he coached 15 golfers a year for 30 years..."
He said he played for Murphy at Lourdes in the late '90s, and he wanted it known that "Tom cared."
When the final scorecard is signed, that's a winning way to be remembered.