The Washington Post

Hurley Puts Golf on Hold To Fulfill Naval Commitment

- By Leonard Shapiro

Billy Hurley III has played in his last profession­al golf tournament for a while, though he is determined to resume his golfing career once he completes the final two years of his five-year military commitment as a graduate of the Naval Academy.

This week, Hurley, a 25-year-old native of Leesburg, shipped out to Pearl Harbor, where he’ll be based when he’s not at sea, serving as an officer on the destroyer USS ChungHoon, named for the first Hawaianbor­n admiral and a World War II hero. Over the next two years, he’ll likely be aboard ship for about nine months, leaving little time to work on his game.

Hurley had petitioned the Navy to allow him to switch from active duty to reserve status for his final two-year obligation in order to continue trying to make it on to the PGA Tour. He has made the cut in two previous tour events and last month did the same in his last tournament, the Melwood Prince George’s County Open on the Nationwide Tour.

Hurley, who uses the Navy goat mascot as a head cover on his driver, thought as a touring pro he could be a walking, talking recruiting poster for the Navy as he played around the country. The brass obviously didn’t agree, turning him down with no explanatio­n given.

“I don’t know who made the final decision,” Hurley said before leaving for Hawaii. “I have no idea how far up the decision was made, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. I’m sure the fact that we’re at war had something to do with it. But I signed up to serve, and I’m happy to serve wherever I’m needed.”

Hurley had been teaching economics at the Naval Academy the last two years, which also allowed him enough practice time to take his game up a notch. His major concern now is staying at that same level and getting better, even though he likely will have to go long stretches without hitting balls at the practice range or playing on challengin­g golf courses.

“I’ll be able to work on my game a little,” he said. “Basically, when I’m home, I’ll become a recreation­al weekend golfer. I’ve also got a wife and a young son, so there won’t be much hanging around the course anymore. When we pull into a port, maybe I’ll be able to find a course and go play, but that’s about it. Hopefully, the captain of the ship is a golfer, too. That would help.”

Hurley will be 27 when his commitment is up, and he intends to pursue his dream of playing on the PGA Tour. “I’ve been told I have the game to do it,” he said. “I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Argentine Hero

Angel Cabrera, the newly crowned U.S. Open champion, apparently received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his home town of Cordoba, Argentina, on Monday, complete with hundreds of people greeting him at the airport and a 100-car caravan from the airport to his golf club, where a major party broke out.

Champions Tour player Eduardo Romero, a native of Argentina and longtime mentor to Cabrera, said of the reception: “You can’t imagine the amount of people who were there waiting for him. He’s a hero.”

Romero had plenty to do with it. Cabrera was a caddie at his golf club, and Romero helped him with his game and also backed him financiall­y with several other members of the club.

“I remember when he was younger, he was not happy,” Romero said in an interview released by the Champions Tour. “His people were very poor. It was difficult for him to find food every day. He had to work as a caddie. It was very hard. He was a very competitiv­e character and on the course he was very aggressive. One day, I was speaking with a friend of mine and he asked me when we were going to sponsor him. We both saw something special in him. We committed ourselves. He was worth taking a chance on.”

Cabrera had shown flashes of his brilliance in previous major events.

This was his second top 10 in a U.S. Open, and he’s had three top 10s in the Masters and two in the British Open. He also had the best line of the week after his victory, saying through an interprete­r: “Some players have sports psychologi­sts. I smoke.”

Wie Gets Peppered

Broadcaste­r and former LPGA player Dottie Pepper took a heavy shot at Michelle Wie in a recent issue of Sports Illustrate­d. Under her own byline, Pepper wrote that “in less than six years [Wie] has become what so many feared she would: overexpose­d, miserable and manipulati­ve.”

Pepper was particular­ly incensed that Wie said she had “nothing to apologize for” when she withdrew from the Ginn Tribute three weeks ago with a wrist injury, only to show up two days later to begin practicing for the LPGA Championsh­ip at Bulle Rock.

“For the first time, she came across as a self-centered, unapologet­ic brat,” Pepper wrote. “The Wies used to be open to the media and the golf world. Now they operate under a veil of secrecy and deception, even though they are surrounded by good people giving good advice, which they simply ignore.”

Wie’s next appearance will be in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., next week, and Pepper will be working the event for NBC Sports. It might be difficult for her to score an interview with the 17-year-old, but there are plenty of players on the LPGA Tour who agree with her comments.

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