Naval officer Billy Hurley III makes U.S. Open cut
PINEHURST – Billy Hurley III already had achieved the rank of lieutenant, but Friday he got bumped up to a major.
The first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to join the PGA Tour punched his ticket for the weekend rounds of one of golf’s four major tournaments when he was one of the last players to make the cut at the 2014 U.S. Open Championship.
Hurley, who turned pro in 2011 after serving six years in the Navy, had to wait until every player had completed Friday’s second round before his 5-over score earned him two more days at Pinehurst No. 2. He achieved the feat in his first appearance in the Open after carding a 4-over round of 74.
“I was kind of on the border there,” Hurley said. “I wouldn’t say I had a good round. I played the last six holes 4 over.
“Making the cut in my first major would be really cool,” he said before it was clear that he was in.
“The U.S. Open is a big deal because this is the national championship of the United States of America, and I’m obviously very patriotic because of my background. It’s definitely a tournament I want to be a part of for a very long time.”
Hurley was a stellar amateur golfer growing up in Leesburg, Virginia, and continued to play plenty of golf after he entered the Naval Academy. He was the Patriot League Player of the Year in 2004.
Commissioned as a officer after graduation, Hurley spent much of his service aboard ships, which cut into his golf time.
“For the first couple of years I played a good amount, then the last couple of years I didn’t get to play any at all,” he said. “I played about once a month the last two years.
He said he always planned to play professionally when he left the service. “So when I got out, I went golf full time until I became good enough to get back out here.”
Hurley, who turned 32 Monday, said it took about a year before he was ready to tackle the professional ranks.
“I thought it was going to take six months,” Hurley said. “There was a point at about nine months I was scared it wasn’t going to happen. Then I won a tournament and kind of felt like a golfer again.”
Hurley’s military background played a key role in developing his game to the point that he qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open by finishing in the top four of the sectional qualifier at Rockville, Maryland, earlier this month. He birdied three of his last four holes there to make the Open field.
“It’s always helped me from a time management standpoint and from a mental toughness standpoint,” he said. “Those are two of the qualities and skills that I learned from the Naval Academy and the Navy.”