AKRON, Ohio – For several years, Billy Hurley III put country before golf. Now he has decided that family comes first, too.
Hurley, who won the Quicken Loans National on Sunday to earn a spot in the British Open at Royal Troon on July 14-17, said he called R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers and said he wouldn’t be competing in golf’s oldest championship. Instead, Hurley plans to attend his sister Megan’s wedding in their hometown of Leesburg, Va.
“I wouldn’t miss my sister’s wedding for the world,” Hurley said. “It’s very important for me to be there to support her and her husband.”
Hurley said his sister tried not to persuade when they talked on Sunday. He called it an easy decision, and said he phoned his sister during his practice round to inform him that he wouldn’t miss the festivities.
“She started crying,” Hurley said.
Hurley’s fairytale victory – winning his hometown event, a former Navy lieutenant at a tournament that pays homage to the military, just 10 months after his father committed suicide and hoisting his first PGA Tour trophy when talk of retirement flooded his mind – left many reaching for a Kleenex.
“I didn’t know that many people cared about me,” said Hurley, who estimated he had received 250 text messages and another 130 emails, including a few from four-star admirals. “I’ve heard from so many grown men telling me they were watching golf crying on Sunday. I had a good friend of mine in California call and leave a message, and he was fighting back tears the whole time he was leaving the message for me.”
As the last man into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Hurley said his locker at Firestone Country Club is tucked in a back corner, “and there’s a parking spot back in the back of the lot and everything.” When Hurley arrived at the practice range, Michael Greller, caddie to Jordan Spieth, congratulated him and said, “Thanks for making us all cry.”
Hurley, who entered last week ranked No. 607 in the world and hadn’t finished better than T-41 in his previous 11 events, considered hanging up his spikes after a poor performance at the Puerto Rico Open in March. Hurley said he no longer enjoyed the struggles of professional golf.
“One of the guys on my team said, ‘Well, why don’t you take a day, day and a half, and really think about quitting, like really think about retiring. What would that look like? What would you do?’ And I did,” Hurley said.
The 34-year-old Hurley and his wife, Heather, usually “renewed our contract to continue playing golf” in August. His wife suggested that he stick it out to the end of his contract. After all, he had waited five years to begin his career in earnest while he fulfilled his five-year military obligation out of the Naval Academy.
In May, Hurley’s younger brother, Dan, caddied for him at the Web.com Tour’s Rex Hospital Open. Despite missing the cut, Hurley’s brother saw reason for hope and told him, “That doesn’t look like a guy who should retire to me.” Dan was on the bag again in June when Hurley was the medalist at U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Rockville, Md. “A couple days later, he was like, ‘That’s the best I’ve ever seen you play.’ ”
On Sunday at Congressional when Hurley’s big brother walked off the 18th green as a champion, Dan said, “Are you still thinking of retiring?”
Skipping Troon, but Hurley now believes the best is yet to come.