Day in the Life: Billy Horschel
Sunday, April 19, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Former President George W. Bush made an impression on Florida senior Billy Horschel when he visited the White House with the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team two years ago.
“He gave (us) one of the best speeches that I’ve ever heard,” Horschel says. “He says, ‘You have to handle things by the way you were raised – your morals, your values. If you don’t stick by that, then what do you have?’ ”
The president’s sentiments stuck with Horschel, perhaps because he lives his life by the same ideals. At 7 o’clock on this fall Monday morning in a workout room on the University of Florida campus, it’s easy to see that hard work is a priority for Horschel.
Horschel and his teammates are in the midst of doing core exercises that promote balance and improve rotation. Each player is responsible for completing his own workout, and though the routine isn’t grueling, there are several different things they’d rather be doing at the crack of dawn. Sleeping, for example.
Since the golf team works out in the building that houses the Florida basketball offices, Horschel and his teammates conclude the workout with a pick-up game of hoops. Horschel ends the game with a spin-move, drive and lay-in, then walks off the court to jeers and smack-talk.
Back at his apartment, he downplays the heckling while eating a breakfast sandwich. Ego and braggadocio have no place in Horschel’s life.
“I try to have fun with it, but sometimes someone says something to you where it’s not fun anymore,” he says. “Personally, I don’t think I’m one to ever talk a lot of smack... I just try to do it by the way I play.”
A United States staff bag from the ’07 Walker Cup sits in the corner of his apartment; a painting of Royal County Down, the course that held the matches, hangs on a wall. The painting – given to every player in the event – is a reminder of one of the match’s highlights.
Four down through five holes to Jonathan Caldwell and Rory McIlroy, Horschel and Oklahoma State’s Rickie Fowler stormed back to win, 2 and 1.
“We were ecstatic – the greatest feeling I’ve had on a golf course,” Horschel says. The statement says more than you might think, considering Horschel’s lengthy list of accolades.
Horschel is a two-time medalist at NCAA Regionals (2006, ’07) and won the Ping/Golfweek Preview as a sophomore. He was also named SEC Player of the Year the same season, and fired a USGA-record 11-under 60 in the first round of U.S. Amateur stroke play in 2006. Most recently, Horschel won the individual title by two shots over a stacked field at the SEC Championship April 19.
It’s a resume Horschel lets speak for itself.
“I’m a very confident person,” he says. “But I’m not going to go out of my way to show it.”
Sitting in his 10 a.m. class, “Ethics in Sport,” Horschel listens intently as fellow students give presentations on a variety of topics, including one on athletes acting as role models. Horschel is especially vocal on the topic.
“Isn’t anyone who a kid looks up to in society a role model?” asks Horschel. “Foley (Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley) says, ‘The most important thing is how we conduct ourselves off the field.’ Things done off the field still reflect badly on the team.”
After class, Horschel’s off to his gig at the on-campus Gator merchandise store to fulfill a requirement for his sport management major. The job, which only takes a few hours out of his day, kills an ample amount of time until lunch at Moe’s with teammate Will Strickler.
Not surprisingly, the conversation returns to role models and athletes that cross the line both on and off the field. Over burritos and queso dip, Horschel talks about the positives and negatives of players like NFL players Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson.
Unlike T.O. and Ocho-Cinco, you won’t see any theatrics from Horschel after he makes birdie.
“My parents didn’t raise me like that,” he says.
Lunch is followed by a quick stop at Horschel’s advisor’s office. It’s nearing 3 p.m., but Horschel’s day is already nine hours old, more than halfway over.
His work on campus finished, Horschel hops in his Lexus crossover and stops at his apartment to grab his clubs.
The Mark Bostick Golf Course, Horschel’s home away from home, gives the Florida golf teams a place to train and hone their games. It’s what some average golfers might envy most about college golfers.
“It’s sad that I’m leaving,” Horschel says.
Today, Horschel works on his putting, then plays a few holes. He enjoys the ability to play on a late afternoon in solitude.
His days, however, are numbered at Florida. Despite everything he’s acheived, there is still a burning void he feels.
“I want to win a national championship more than anything,” he says. “I want to do it for Buddy (head coach Buddy Alexander) and everyone else who helps us out. They give us everything we need to do it; it’s up to us.”
Florida – and Horschel – are primed to make a run at that national title this year. The Gators are currently seventh in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and Horschel, who finished last season ranked 16th, is ranked 15th in the nation.
The Gators may feel more pressure to secure a national title after Tim Tebow led his squad to a BCS title Jan. 8. By chance, Horschel once spotted Tebow in a Gainesville sandwich shop, and the two spoke about each other’s respective sports.
“One of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet,” Horschel says of Tebow.
The impact of playing for Florida is not lost on Horschel, who after finishing his work at the course heads home to eat dinner and relax, maybe even do some homework. Alumni like Camilo Villegas, Chris DiMarco, Mark Calcavecchia, and Andy North have gone down in the annals of Gator lore.
“These guys are doing it,” he says of their success. “I know I can. You can’t expect it to come to you. You have to work at it.”
Every single day.