Navy grad Hurley resting up for U.S. Open at Pinehurst
On the one hand, professional golfer Billy Hurley III is excited to play in his first major tournament next week — the U.S. Open Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina. At the same time, the Annapolis resident and Naval Academy graduate isn’t expecting any sort of picnic, not when he’ll be competing against 155 of the world’s best players.
While Hurley has never played at Pinehurst, he knows to expect difficult conditions.
“The good news is I typically play well on hard golf courses, when the winning score is closer to par,’’ he said.
Par wasn’t going to cut it on Monday at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville during U.S. Open sectional qualifying, a one-day, 36-hole grind with the top four players from the field of 54 earning U.S. Open spots.
On Sunday evening, Hurley took a plane from Columbus, Ohio home to Annapolis following his final-round 68 at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio. Hurley finished in a tie for 37th place to earn $25,420 in prize money.
In his first qualifying round on Monday, Hurley shot a disappointing 2-over 74, making a top-four finish a longshot at Woodmont’s 7,193-yard North Course. Hurley was at 1-under after 36 holes but still had nearly a dozen golfers ahead of him.
But Hurley saved his best for last, birdieing Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to vault into second place, where he would remain. The highlight was on the 16th hole, where Hurley unleashed a hybrid from 217 yards to four feet. It was, Hurley commented on Twitter, “one of the best hybrids of my life.’
“I figured I’d have to get to 4 under to have a chance,’’ Hurley said. “I was just trying to give myself a chance. Then I made birdie, then birdie, then another birdie, and I was like, ‘alright, here we go.’ ‘’
Hurley, a Leesburg, Virginia native, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004. He was a lieutenant aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer for part of 2010 in the Persian Gulf, helping to protect Iraqi oil platforms.
Hurley turned pro in 2006 and played in 11 PGA Tour events over the next four years. He earned his PGA Tour card for the 2012 season thanks to a strong 2011 showing on the Web.com Tour. However, he was not high enough on the money list to retain his card for the 2013 season. Another strong web.com season earned Hurley another chance on the PGA Tour, and he’s taken advantage of it.
“I’ve been happy with the progress I’ve made in the game in general,’’ Hurley said. “I’m a much better player than I was two years ago during my rookie year and it’s been fun to see the end results. I’m just trying to keep getting better and staying consistent week in and week out and getting experience.’’
So far, Hurley has two top-10 and seven top-50 finishes, including a fifth-place finish at the Honda Classic in early March. He has earned $649,794 in prize money and is in good position to retain his Tour privileges for 2015.
Hurley will not play at this week’s PGA Tour stop in Memphis. Instead, he’ll rest up for next week’s trip to North Carolina, where he’ll celebrate his 32nd birthday on Monday, then begin play in his first major three days later.
“It will be my first major, and obviously I want to play lots of majors in my career, so you have to start somewhere,’’ Hurley said. “So, for the U.S.. Open to be the first one ever, that’s exciting.’’
Hurley is not considered a long hitter — his 278.7-yard average is 166th in driving distance, but he’s 16th in driving accuracy (68.63 percent) and 42nd in greens in regulation percentage (67.56).