Billy Hurley III is a bit of an anomaly on the PGA TOUR. Although, as a kid, he dreamed of having a pro golf career, he took the “scenic route” to get there. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the United States Naval Academy, then served five years as a naval officer—including deployment in the Persian Gulf—before earning his place on the TOUR.
At the time of this writing, Hurley III is not only the first U.S. Naval Academy graduate to play on the PGA TOUR, but is also the only military veteran actively competing. Although his military service delayed his pro golf career, that unique experience makes Hurley III a stronger player, and better person, today.
“Although I had discipline and mental toughness before, those attributes grew to a new level at the Naval Academy and during active duty,” Hurley III said. “I also got 10 years worth of life experience in five years of active duty time, in terms of traveling, leadership and management. So, I travel a little better than some of my peers on the TOUR, which gives me a bit of a leg up, as well.”
But, what about the transition from the camaraderie of the Navy to the decidedly individual sport of professional golf?
“The thing I miss most about the Navy is the cohesiveness and team atmosphere that exists on a ship. That’s something that’s not matched anywhere else in the world,” Hurley III said. “In a small military setting, everyone is working for the common goal of the ship, whether that’s to pass an inspection or to take on a mission in the Persian Gulf. Everyone works together, doing his or her piece of the puzzle to make the whole thing go.”
In many ways, Hurley III has parlayed what he loved about that team atmosphere to his PGA TOUR career.
“Although golf is a very individual sport, I do have a team around me—coaches, advisors and my sponsors,” he said. “We’re all working together to play great golf and assist those sponsor companies in their marketplace. I do try and use the team aspect of things a lot, and that probably comes from being a part of my team in the Navy for so long.”
Keeping the Home Fires Burning
Of course, Hurley III has another very important team behind him: his wife Heather, and the couple’s three children; sons Will, age 10, Jacob, age 8, and 3-year-old daughter, Madison.
He and Heather met in Philadelphia in 2003; the night before the Army-Navy football game.
“Heather is very strong and self sufficient, which I love,” Hurley III said. “It’s interesting how much military wives and TOUR wives have in common, now that I think about it. It’s certainly not a lifestyle that many women would put up with; you have to find the right person to make it work.”
According to Hurley III, Heather challenges him to be better at everything he does.
“She’s not going to let me slack off at anything, whether that’s golf, being a husband, or being a dad,” he said.
And, for the record, Hurley III clearly loves being a dad. To him, the best part of parenthood is watching the kids find what they enjoy and really go after it—even if their love isn’t in his lane.
“There’s this great quote that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind—‘You can choose to connect with your kids, but you can’t choose how to do it,’” he said. “My oldest son loves the piano. I know absolutely nothing about the piano. But, it’s really fun to see him play it well and to enjoy it. My younger kids haven’t found what they truly like yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing their eyes light up when that thing comes along for them.”
Inaugural Tournament, and New Way to Give Back to Those Who Serve
If you tap into one of his Twitter chats, it’s clear that Hurley III has a bounty of active duty military members among his growing legion of fans.
This year, he is honoring his roots, and those who serve, in a very visible way.
July 31-August 1, 2017, marks the dates of the inaugural Billy Hurley III Junior Championship, which will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy Golf Course. The event will feature some of the Mid-Atlantic’s best junior golfers in a competitive invitational format, with three separate open qualifiers. The tournament will offer 10 military exemptions for junior players.
“I’m really excited to host a junior championship at the Naval Academy Golf Course. It’s a natural fit to combine the Naval Academy and the Mid-Atlantic PGA together for this event, as it’s the area and section where I played a lot of junior golf myself, ” Hurley III said.
In addition to the junior competition, Hurley III will host the first Billy Hurley III and the Brave Golf Tournament on July 31st, which not only raises money for the Anchor Scholarship Foundation, Naval Academy Athletics and one junior golf scholarship, but also gives active duty military the chance of a lifetime.
“The cool thing we’re doing is giving away one spot on each foursome to active-duty military members on the East Coast. We’re basically selling threesomes to our sponsors, partners and patrons, with an active duty military member making up the fourth member of that team for the day,” Hurley III said. “We get the military members there, and back, all expenses paid.”
Advice From a Pro
No question, Hurley III has learned a lot of life lessons in the Naval Academy, in the Navy, as well as on the PGA TOUR. Perhaps the biggest one he can pass along to those aspiring to follow in his footsteps is this: No matter what your passion is, be it golf, basketball or becoming a Naval Academy grad; excelling takes sacrifice.
“If you want to be good at anything, you’ve got to sacrifice something for it,” Hurley III said. “You can ask my friends from high school or my roommates from college and they’d tell you the same thing—I pretty much just played golf and did school, and that was pretty much it. You have to have that level of dedication to something if you truly want to become the best in the world at it.”
Yet, as ambitious as he is, Hurley III is mindful enough to keep his priorities in check.
“I want to be a great golfer, but that’s secondary or even tertiary in life,” he said. “I want my kids to turn out well, to parent them well and to be a good father, so they have the opportunity to do what they want in life. I don’t know that I’ve said it very eloquently, but at the end of the day, my most important responsibility is to my family. That’s something I continually try to do a better job of, throughout the year and throughout the rest of my life. ”