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.
“Billy played well,” Singh said. “He’s been playing well all week. You can see he’s under control and it’s nice to see him play well and not lose it actually at the end of the tournament.”
Hurley didn’t lose it. He only got better as it went along.
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 British Open. He had never finished higher than a tie for fourth in a PGA Tour event.
Hurley celebrated on the 18th green with wife Heather, daughter Madison and sons Will and Jacob. His children held miniature American flags as they watched their father reach a high point in his career.
“I couldn’t think of a better tournament for my first PGA Tour win,” Hurley said. “I’m just thrilled to have gotten it done today.”
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 an eventful 72 that included five bogeys and one double.
David Hearn (69) of Brantford, Ont., and Nick Taylor (70) of Abbotsford, B.C., finished in a tie for 12th at 6-under par.
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 Sunday. “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 colours 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 honour to serve, but he wanted to follow his passion, golf.”