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Area na­tive Hur­ley re­turns to de­fend ti­tle

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY PETER SANTO

Com­ing home to the Wash­ing­ton area for the Quicken Loans Na­tional — this week’s stop on the PGA Tour — is al­ways go­ing to be com­pli­cated for Billy Hur­ley III. The 35-year-old pro, who grew up in nearby Lees­burg, Vir­ginia, is ex­cited about de­fend­ing the ti­tle — his only ca­reer PGA Tour vic­tory — that he won last year at Con­gres­sional Coun­try Club.

But he also can’t help but re­mem­ber 2015, when he played the same tour­na­ment with­out one of his big­gest fans, his fa­ther Wil­lard Hur­ley Jr., who’d gone miss­ing days ear­lier — and would be found dead later that sum­mer of a self­in­flicted gun­shot wound.

Hur­ley, who lives in An­napo­lis with his wife and chil­dren, said the mem­o­ries of grow­ing up on the links un­der the tute­lage of his fa­ther, a ca­reer po­lice sargeant and a for­mer col­lege golfer, makes it tough some­times to keep the com­pet­i­tive edge he needs on the course.

“Golf might’ve hurt ac­tu­ally. Lots of peo­ple use golf as re­cre­ation, you get out­side and get away from things,” Hur­ley told re­porters re­cently. “For me it’s work. So I’m not get­ting away from any­thing. A lot of my mem­o­ries with my dad were around golf and how much time we spent to­gether with him watch­ing me. So that was a bar­rier I had to break through in golf to be able to fo­cus and be in the place I needed to be to com­pete.”

Play­ing com­pet­i­tively with­out his fa­ther watch­ing was dif­fi­cult at first, but Hur­ley broke through last year with his win at Con­gres­sional.

A player’s first tour vic­tory is al­ways mem­o­rable, but for Hur­ley, it was par­tic­u­larly special.

Hur­ley’s path to the PGA was an un­ortho­dox one. Rather than en­rolling at a col­le­giate golf pow­er­house, Hur­ley at­tended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned a de­gree in quan­ti­ta­tive eco­nomics be­fore serv­ing five years in the Navy, ris­ing to the rank of lieu­tenant be­fore his com­mit­ment fin­ished in 2009. He was de­ployed twice on the USS Chung-Hoon as the ship nav­i­gated the Per­sian Gulf and moved through the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

Even while he was on the wa­ter, he

held on tightly to his dream of play­ing golf at the high­est level, competing in seven PGA Tour events while on ac­tive duty.

After his ser­vice, he bat­tled on golf’s mini tours for two years be­fore reach­ing the Na­tion­wide Tour in 2011. After fin­ish­ing 25th on the money list that year, Hur­ley earned his PGA Tour card for the 2012 sea­son.

Al­though he didn’t win, Hur­ley made a nice liv­ing over the next four sea­sons. He had seven top-10 fin­ishes and earned over $2 mil­lion.

Hur­ley came to the Quicken Loans Na­tional in July 2015 hop­ing the event’s lo­ca­tion — it was held that year at Robert Trent Jones in Gainesville, Vir­ginia, just 90 min­utes from his home in An­napo­lis — would pro­vide the spark he needed to se­cure his first win on the tour. In­stead, he fin­ished well back in the field, tied for 46th. In the end, he made much more of an im­pres­sion with well-pub­li­cized pleas for the public to help find his then-miss­ing fa­ther than for any­thing he ac­com­plished on the course.

But last year, al­most 10 months after his fa­ther’s sui­cide, in an event tied to so many mem­o­ries, Hur­ley carded a twounder par 69 on Sun­day to de­feat Vi­jay Singh by three strokes.

This year, Hur­ley re­turns to the Wash­ing­ton area look­ing to de­fend his ti­tle at TPC Po­tomac in Po­tomac, Mary­land, the tour­na­ment’s third site in as many years.

Hur­ley said he feels like he has as much of a home-court ad­van­tage at Po­tomac as he did at Con­gres­sional in nearby Bethesda.

“In one sense, you might wish we were play­ing Con­gres­sional again be­cause I’ve played and com­peted there very, very well,” Hur­ley said. “And in an­other sense it’s great to be here at Po­tomac and maybe I can have a lit­tle leg up on guys be­cause I’ve prob­a­bly played the course more than any­one else on tour.”

Hur­ley has strug­gled fol­low­ing his break­through vic­tory, his best fin­ish in 2017 is a tie for eighth at the Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship. As he re­turns home, he ac­knowl­edged the pres­sure.

“It feels like more pres­sure. And that’s the hard thing about golf,” Hur­ley said. “Ev­ery­one wants you to play well at cer­tain times but you don’t know when it’s go­ing to hap­pen. I’m go­ing to play well at some point, if you could tell me what those five weeks are, then I could shorten my travel sched­ule a lot.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Billy Hur­ley III, who grew up in Lees­burg, Vir­ginia, and now lives in An­napo­lis, seeks to de­fend his Quicken Loans Na­tional ti­tle this week at TPC Po­tomac in Po­tomac, Mary­land. Hur­ley won last sea­son’s ti­tle one year after the death of his fa­ther.

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