The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 5, 2014

Hurley celebrates the Fourth with lots of red

Naval Academy grad shoots 63 in Friday’s morning group

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Billy Hurley III wasn’t sporting stars and stripes on his pants like John Daly Friday, and he wasn’t chanting, “USA, USA” like many fans as he strolled the Old White TPC during the second round of The Greenbrier Classic.

But few on the grounds Friday had an appreciation for the Independence Day holiday quite like the 32-year-old Leesburg, Va., native, who lit up the course with a 63 during an early morning round.

Hurley, who grew up just on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., where he was an all-state golfer at Loudoun County High School, had long dreamed of heading to the United States Naval Academy, and in 2000, his dream came true.

“As an eighth- or ninth-grader, I pretty much wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he said. “I only applied to one school, because I only wanted to go to one place. Fortunately, I got in.

“I just kind of fell in love with the Naval Academy — the tradition, honor, courage, commitment, all the ideals. It was definitely the right school for me.”

Hurley graduated in 2004 and was commissioned into the Navy. He spent some time helping out with the golf team there and then was sent to Mayport, Fla., where he worked on the USS Gettysburg.

He was there for six months and then was allowed to try to make the Walker Cup team in the summer of 2005. He did that and turned professional in 2006, while still on active duty.

Hurley played in seven PGA Tour events that year — through sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifying — and he submitted paperwork to be released from the Navy and transferred to reserves — a situation similar to what David Robinson did in order to play for the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.

The request was denied, so Hurley spent two years teaching Introduction to Economics at the Naval Academy.

During the summer of 2007, Hurley was sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he worked on the USS Chung-Hoon. He was there for two years, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He spent 11 of those 24 months on deployments in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The highlight was driving the ship through the Suez Canal.

“I was actually the officer of the deck driving the ship through the Suez Canal,” he said. “It was awesome.”

During that time, though, the work on his golf game was understandably minimal.

“I tried to work out as much as I could, which wasn’t even as much as you want,” he said. “It’s completely a 60-70-hour-a-week kind of job. So for those two years in Hawaii, I was a recreational golfer. I probably averaged one round a month over those two years.”

In July of 2009, Hurley’s military commitment ended, and he spent some time on golf’s mini-tours before gaining Nationwide Tour status in 2011. He finished 25th there his first year, earning his PGA Tour card for the 2012 season. He was unable to keep it but got it back for 2014 thanks to his play on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s back where he always expected he’d be playing.

“My senior year in college I was ranked No. 2 in the country for a while, and then I kind of thought, ‘Hey, I might be able to do this,’” said Hurley, explaining that he never backed down from the idea of playing golf for a living. “Like the guys that I’m playing against now, I expected to turn pro and play on the PGA Tour. It’s certainly something I wanted to do from the time that I graduated. But I had the five-year commitment, and I never wavered.

“Golf was a completely secondary thing. I was a naval officer first, and if you ask the people that I served with, they’d say that for sure.”

With that military background, July 4 is obviously a special day for Hurley, who was the 2004 Patriot League Player of the Year at Navy and still proudly displays the school’s logo on his golf bag and wears a visor supporting the SEAL Legacy Foundation, which provides assistance to military members in need.

“I think with a lot of our holidays, we have to sit back and remember what they’re actually for,” he said. “Often it’s barbecue, a couple of beers, the pool and fireworks. Sometimes we have to think about why we actually have this day.

“For me, certain holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day, I know more what they’re about.”

Hurley had plans to attend the Maroon 5 concert and the fireworks to celebrate the occasion Friday evening, but firing a 63 at America’s Resort wasn’t a bad way to start.

“Being the only person playing this week who has served, the only military veteran on Tour, it adds something to it,” he said. “The Fourth of July has always been a special day for me growing up. So it’s pretty cool to shoot 7-under on the Fourth of July.”

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHufffmanRH.

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