On a day filled with parades, family, and fireworks, what could be better than having a former Naval Officer lead The Greenbrier Classic on the Fourth of July? Billy Hurley III has been many things in his life, including a graduate from the Naval Academy, now he is a professional golfer who is leading his first golf tournament at The Greenbrier Classic.
The fireworks started early on The Old White golf course at White Sulphur Springs on Friday afternoon when 32 year-old Billy Hurley III fired a bogey-free 7-under par 63 on a cool day in West Virginia. He was able to get in the clubhouse at 9-under par, which was good for a one-shot lead over Kevin Chappell, and Chris Stroud.
Starting his second round on the back nine, Hurley was slow to get going, but with birdies on 14, 16 and 17, he made the turn at three under par. Four birdies on the front stretch along with a 2-under par score on Thursday gave him his first overnight lead on the PGA Tour.
“Anytime you play good, it’s great; right?” he said with a smile. “But certainly, there’s special days of the year for our country, and … being the only person playing this week who has served (in the military) … it adds kind of stuff. So it’s kind of pretty cool, I guess, to shoot 7 under on the Fourth of July.”
Hurley graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004 with a degree in quantitive economics(what ever that is), and served aboard the USS Gettysburg home ported in Mayport, Florida.
He was moved off the ship so that he could compete in amateur golf and was able to make the 2005 Walker Cup team. He turned pro in 2006, and played on sponsor exemptions and Monday Qualifiers making two cuts in six PGA events.
“That said, golf was completely a secondary kind of thing,” Hurley said. “I was a naval officer first, and if you ask the people who I served with, they’d say that’s for sure.”
After an unsuccessful attempt to transfer to the reserves much like David Robinson did back in the 80′s so he could pursue a golf career, in July of 2007, he was transferred to the USS Chung Hoon, which was stationed in Pearl Harbor. During that time, Hurley calls himself “recreational golfer,” averaging a round of golf a month during the two years he served on the 10,000-ton guided missle destroyer.
Hurley was deployed twice, spending time in the Persian Gulf, protecting Iraqi oil platforms, as well as the Red Sea and South China Sea. The highlight was being the officer on the deck and driving the destroyer through the Suez Canal.
As a U.S. Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, you can bet that I will be rooting for the youngster from Leesburg, Virginia to win his first PGA Tour event, and what could be better to close out our nations 238th birthday, than have a formal Naval Officer with a trophy when it’s over?