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Billy Hurley III comes up with an emotional first PGA Tour victory at Congressional

June 27, 2016

BETHESDA Billy Hurley III stood on the fairway of the 15th hole at Congressional and watched as his second shot rolled toward the pin. The ball was moving fast enough that Hurley thought he had missed his only hope being that it would stop short enough passed the hole to leave him with a makeable par putt.

Then the ball slowed and disappeared into the cup. As the crowd roared, Hurley punctuated his celebration with a powerful fist pump as he moved to 16 under and lengthened his lead on the rest of the field at the Quicken Loans National.

“I was just...totally took me by surprise and I didn’t know what to do,” Hurley said. “That’s probably like the most emotion I’ve ever shown in my life.”

Hurley followed that emotion with his signature laser-like focus the unbreakable concentration that manifested itself at the United States Naval Academy and continued as the Leesburg, Virginia native navigated a 10,000-ton destroyer through the Suez Canal.

It was that focus that guided Hurley through the last 10 months, both on the golf course and emotionally, as he and his family endured the loss of his father, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound last August.

It was that focus that guided Hurley through the par-5 16th hole, which he birdied after making a 27-foot putt that put him at 17 under for the tournament. Hurley parred the next two holes and finished Sunday with a two-under 69 to win his first PGA Tour event, outlasting Vijay Singh, Jon Rahm, Bill Haas and Ernie Els to win the Quicken Loans National.

The emotional victory, coupled with the fact that the tournament, which is hosted by Tiger Woods, recognizes the military and their service to the country, made it a memorable moment for Hurley.

“This is definitely the one,” Hurley said. “Just being so close to home, close to the Academy, close to where I grew up. And then just being a part of the event on the PGA Tour that does the actual most to honor our military here at Quicken Loans National, just couldn’t script a better one for me to win my first Tour win.”

On Saturday, after Hurley shot a four-under 67 to take a two-stroke lead over Els, he was sitting in his hotel room when he got a call from Michael Mullen, a retired Navy admiral who served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hurley, who was trying to unplug from any distractions the night before the final round, mulled not answering the call until he saw who it was from.

“When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls, you answer the phone,” Hurley said. “Admiral Mullen said he was on a fishing trip in Montana and he just told me what he tells me every time we talk, how proud he is and how proud the military is of me and the Naval Academy is of me. It was really special for him to think of me last night.”

The 34-year-old Hurley, who was winless in 103 PGA Tour events, began the final round with a birdie on the first hole and a bogey on the second. Following a string of six consecutive pars, Hurley birdied the ninth hole to move to one under.

Els struggled on the back nine, starting with a double-bogey on the 10th hole. Following Hurley’s consecutive birdies on 15 and 16, Els bogeyed the 17th hole, a sequence that ensured the 46-year-old was out of contention.

With Singh, who finished second at 14 under, and Rahm and Haas, who tied for third at 13 under, all ready in the clubhouse, Hurley received a warm embrace from the crowd walking down the 18th fairway with Els.

Back on the 11th hole, as Hurley walked toward his second shot, his mother, Cheryl, reflected on how meaningful the victory would be for the family. She remembered the long nights Billy and his father spent on the golf course as her son honed his game, and all the tournaments they watched together.

Following Hurley’s final putt on the 18th hole, Els turned to Hurley and delivered a heartfelt message.

“He said something like, you know, ‘I think your dad’s looking down really proud of you,’” Hurley said.

By then, Cheryl was making her way toward the green, along with the remainder of Billy’s family that was in attendance, to give her son a hug, overcome with emotion after Billy sealed the victory.

“She watched a lot of golf growing up in high school and college and I think she might like golf more than I do,” Hurley said. “It’s special to have her here today.”