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EDITORIAL: Fairways, fundamentals and Billy Hurley III

Loudoun County High School grad Billy Hurley III got his first career PGA Tour win Sunday, besting his closest challenger at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, by three strokes. Courtesy Photo/J.D. Cuban, Tiger Woods

Billy Hurley III’s Twitter page chronicles the story of an ordinary guy who had just completed a leap of faith.

“It just actually hit me,” he tweeted June 27. “I won @PGAtour at #QLNational.”

Two hours earlier he stood in line at a Starbucks and listened to customers talk about him winning the Quicken Loans National golf tournament on June 26. Apparently, no one recognized him.

The Leesburg native now lives in a family neighborhood in Annapolis. It’s about 40 miles from Congressional Country Club, the legendary club of presidents, the powerful and some of golf’s great tournaments. After hoisting the trophy outside Congressional’s expansive clubhouse, Hurley returned home to find his modest house decorated with balloons and hand-made notes posted on his front door.

Leesburg’s hometown pro golfer, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, had just won $1.3 million. It was the 34-year-old's first victory in his 10-year career. He missed the cut in six of the 11 tournaments he participated in this year and hadn’t finished better than a tie for 41st place.

Stories don’t get better than this. Well, maybe. With his victory, Hurley qualified for the prestigious Open Championship in Troon, Scotland. Hurley told reporters he might forego the trip overseas. His sister, Megan, is getting married the Saturday of Open week, and Hurley said he’d “have to get a pass” before playing at Royal Troon.

“Something tells me it’s going to be a pretty hard sell,” Hurley said after winning the Quicken. “We’ll have to figure it out. Some of my team kept telling me: ‘If you get in the Open, you’re going. Send them a nice present, you’re going.’ I don’t know.”

Family matters to Billy Hurley III. Last year's Quicken Loans National was one of the worst tournaments imaginable for him, and it had nothing to do with playing golf. In a tear-filled press conference at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Hurley announced that his father had gone missing and pleaded for him to return home. Willard Hurley, who served as a police officer in Northern Virginia for 25 years and helped provide security at golf tournaments, was found three days later in a public library in northeastern Texas, watching his son play at the Quicken Loans National on a computer. Roughly two weeks later, he was found dead at 61, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On June 26, surrounded by friends and family from Leesburg, where he grew up, and Annapolis, where he and his wife Heather now live with their three children – including a son they adopted from Ethiopia – Hurley admitted he struggled to keep his father’s tragic death out of his mind while he was on the golf course.

“Last year’s been really hard, no two ways about it,” Hurley said.

Those who understand that golf is about destinations and character can appreciate Billy Hurley’s inner game.

Golf is the only sport in which you move from the general to the specific in a discrete series of moves. The first stroke is a leap of faith: you hit it out there and you hope you’re on the fairway. The second shot is a correction of the first. The third one corrects that. If you’re good, or lucky, you’ve arrived on the green where you putt the ball into a 3 ½ inch diameter cup, hundreds of yards from where you started.

How you arrive at that small destination matters.

This week, Billy Hurley III returned home. His journey teaches us to follow the fairways and the fundamentals: Keep your head down. Hit it straight. Play by the rules. When the moment is right, take a leap of faith.

Correction: This story has been updated to state Billy Hurley III's father worked in law enforcement in Prince William County, not Leesburg. The Times-Mirror regrets the error.


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