Navy grad Hurley wins first PGA Tour event

BETHESDA, Md. — Billy Hurley III held the club in his left hand and fist pumped with his right. Not far from his Annapolis home and the Naval Academy he graduated from 12 years ago, he became a champion.

Hurley shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday to win his hometown Quicken Loans National at Congressional for his first PGA Tour victory. He finished at 17 under in Tiger Woods‘ annual tournament, three strokes ahead of three-time major champion Vijay Singh.

Sobel: Hurley learning to cope with painful memories

Editor’s Note: Published in Jan. 2016 — Months after his family’s tragedy played out in the national spotlight, PGA Tour pro Billy Hurley III knows some questions may never get answered.

To beat Singh, Ernie Els and 21-year-old Jon Rahm, Hurley showed the poise he developed at the Naval Academy and during his five years of service. Mental toughness and focus he said help with adversity on the course, and that showed through in his 104th PGA Tour start.

With the 53-year-old Singh closing on him, Hurley was at his best. He holed out from 35 yards on the fairway for birdie on the 15th, a shot worthy of celebration and one Woods himself called “impressive, really impressive.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Hurley made a 27-foot putt on the 16th to seal the tournament and wrap up the $1,242,000 first-place prize and a spot in The Open Championship. He had never finished higher than a tie for fourth in a PGA Tour event.

Singh and Rahm secured their spots at The Open Championship with their finishes. Harold Varner III, the only African-American on the PGA Tour this season, also punched his ticket to Royal Troon in Scotland for his second career major start–his first since the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

On Saturday the 34-year-old said there’s no better tournament to earn his first win, based on its proximity to home and its connections to the military.

“I’m just thrilled to have gotten it done today,” Hurley said.

Singh closed with a 65. Rahm, the former Arizona State star from Spain, wrapped up his professional debut with a 70 to tie for third with Bill Haas (68) at 13 under. Els was fifth at 12 under after a 72.

Hurley also had his father on his mind, 10 months after he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He thought of his dad, a police officer, when he saw officers following his group Saturday.

“It’s been a hard year,” Hurley said. “It’s been a really hard year, so it’s nice to have something go well.”

Hurley maintained his focus in the final round with Woods watching in his trademark Sunday red and with galleries full of fans supporting the local boy who grew up in Leesburg, Virginia, and proudly sports Navy colors including a club head cover of the academy’s goat mascot.

All week, Hurley heard chants of “Maryland” and “21412,” the zip code for the Naval Academy. The honorary starters on the first hole Sunday were Naval officers Georges Labaki and Matthew Cook, who both had met and talked to Hurley about golf and service.

“He served, for one,” Labaki said. “He did his time and he’s also representing the Navy. I’ve had a talk with him, personally, also, a few years ago. He said it’s been an honor to serve, but he wanted to follow his passion, golf.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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