Billy Horschel's winning blueprint includes solid foundation

Billy Horschel's winning blueprint includes solid foundation

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Billy Horschel's winning blueprint includes solid foundation

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Jan. 19, 2015 issue of Golfweek.

KAPALUA, Hawaii – To build is a gratifying endeavor. Construction is incumbent upon physical work, though a blueprint provides a measure of assurance. Work can be quantified, its structure held to engineering criteria.

But when the constructor doesn’t have a blueprint? He is led by feel, though at the end is left to assess his own standard of success. Stucco, with which Billy Horschel Sr., has worked for more than 40 years, is different than a son. Both need to be shaped, but stucco is inanimate; sons contain emotions. A tradesman has a good grasp on stucco’s sturdiness, but a son’s character is not mixed like a recipe.

So you let him go and watch him grow and then when a most improbable series of events make him a raging success and millions of dollars fall into his lap and temptation tests his core values, you discover he’s stronger than stucco, constructed in a way to make you proud.

“I think it’s the way I was raised, coming from a family that had to work hard for everything,” said Billy Horschel Jr., barely four months removed from a numbing three-week stretch of golf.

Seemingly headed out of the FedEx Cup playoffs after a lackluster campaign, Horschel finished second, then won, then won again – $3,477,333 in prize money and another $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup.

Go wild, young man. Sail off in a yacht. Buy an island. Take it all in.

Instead, Horschel has been quick to give plenty of it out. The $10,000 he left to the locker-room attendants at East Lake Golf Club, site of his title-clinching victory, started things. Family and “team” members were rewarded. When caddie Micah Fugitt learned of his boss’ goodwill – a $1 million bonus – he was speechless.

“Shock, happiness, joy,” said Fugitt, who will set up college funds for his two children. “You have such a wide range of emotions.”

Mostly, this: “He’s always been great about showing gratitude to people like that.”

Credit Horschel’s blue-collar upbringing in Grant, Fla., where he and brothers Chris and Brian were expected to do chores, none more thankless than cutting 2 1⁄2 acres of lawn. Billy Sr., who works construction with his brother, and Kathy, a commodity manager, told them to lean on one another for support.

“Nothing was easy for them,” Billy Horschel said. “They sacrificed so much for me. I just always remember those times. It’s not hard for me to stay grounded. There are so many things bigger in life than what I do.”

Enveloped by the soothing warmth and beauty of Maui, Horschel, 28, joined the annual first-of-year festivities at Kapalua Resort. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course is for the previous season’s winners, but none of the other 33 who chose this slice of paradise had qualified quite like Horschel. From 69th in FedEx Cup points entering the playoffs, he was 82nd after missing the cut at The Barclays and, truth be told, just hoping to be top 75 after the Deutsche Bank Championship so he could play in Denver.

Three weeks later, he held the key to Fort Knox.

A few months later, he senses skepticism, that he needs to back up his FedEx Cup magic.

“I’d be lying if I said no. I feel like people think it was maybe a little bit of a fluke, what I did. ‘Yeah, he got on a little bit of a hot streak for a couple weeks. Anybody could have done that,’ ” Horschel said.

Pause, then carefully-chosen words.

“But when I think harder about it, I don’t have to. I know how good a player I am. I know the talent level I am.”

Billy Ho, as his supporters well know.

“He’s very confident in himself,” said Todd Anderson, Horschel’s swing instructor. “He doesn’t shy away from competition. He embraces it.”

Refreshingly honest, abundantly confident, but “he’s not arrogant,” said Horschel’s coach at Florida, Buddy Alexander. “Arrogance is a form of insecurity. (Billy’s) not insecure.”

To suggest Horschel needs to validate his FedEx Cup title is to overlook the fact that he had a better regular season in 2013. He won in New Orleans, was sixth in the regular-season FedEx Cup standings, earned $3.5 million and made the cut in 22 of his 26 tournaments.

It was the sort of golf Alexander had somehow envisioned, even when Horschel didn’t exactly light up the recruiting trail. Alexander watched Horschel shoot 85 at a U.S. Junior Amateur, then saw him play so-so in other tournaments.

Still . . .

“Billy had a lot of confidence in himself, the way he carried himself, the way he took care of business,” Alexander said. “I thought, ‘He has a chance to be a good player.’ ”

Hours after winning the BMW Championship playoff in Denver, Horschel called Alexander. Horschel asked about tickets to the Florida-Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Alexander said he thought he could come through.

“I’ve got a little extra jingle in my pocket,” Horschel said. “If you get the tickets, I’ll get the plane.”

Horschel hired a private jet that took him and his loyal friends – Alexander and his wife, Joan, and son, Tyson; and Anderson and his two sons.

“He’s a genuine guy, and a lot of people might misunderstand that,” Anderson said. “But he’s very loyal to the people in his camp.”

• • •

At 26, Brian Horschel had accompanied his brother to Kapalua in 2014 and said if he ever had a chance to return, he would bring his girlfriend, Natasha. Courtesy of his brother’s playoff roll, Brian basked in tropical warmth last week.

“Without (Billy), I wouldn’t be able to be out here,” said Brian, an electrician.

Billy waved off the generosity.

“I’m there for him,” Billy said. “He has a great plan for himself.”

Brian was indebted to be included in his brother’s trip to Maui, as he had last year when Billy brought a larger party. This year, it was just the brothers. Billy Sr. and Kathy are saving vacation time for this summer’s Open Championship in St. Andrews; Billy’s wife, Brittany, stayed home with the couple’s first child, daughter Skylar, born days after the Tour Championship.

Brian isn’t surprised by Billy’s desire to share in his good fortune, and he knows the source of the altruism.

“We weren’t the poorest of families, but we weren’t well off. But our parents provided for us,” Brian said.

“It wasn’t always what we wanted, but it was always what we needed.”

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