06/26/2016

In the down weeks of the endless PGA Tour Schedule, all one can hope for is a good story to latch onto. This week at the Quicken Loans National, we were treated to a great one. Billy Hurley III claimed his first PGA victory by firing a Sunday 69 to finish at -17.

There are so many levels to this win.

Firstly, there’s Hurley’s status. He lost his tour card after last season and was only playing at Congressional on a sponsor’s exemption. Now he’s secured his place with the big boys for the next two seasons. Secondly, there’s his career record. Every so often it seemed that Hurley would come out of nowhere to play into contention, but for the most part he was a middling pro. He has actually missed more cuts than he’s made over his 104 career events with 55 missed cuts mixed in. Now he’s bona fide winner.

Then there’s the sentimental level. The Quicken Loans National, in conjunction with the Tiger Woods Foundation, supports men and women of the United States Military. The tournament takes place in the Washington, D.C. area each year around the Fourth of July. Hurley graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004 and later became the first military academy product to earn a permanent place on the PGA Tour.

But the real emotional pull is a somber one. At this event last year, Hurley’s father disappeared. He was found dead weeks later after committing suicide. Hurley has handled all of his setbacks since with such class that the entire tour, even those not in the D.C. area, was pulling for him. Hurley triumphed in a place of great personal tragedy.

It all came to fruition as golf has endured a sometimes odd, other times disheartening spell over the last few weeks. The debacle of the final round at the U.S. Open is only just dissipating from the news cycle. In its place are more serious golf-related events. Tiger Woods, who hosts the Quicken Loans National in support of his foundation, admitted that he may not play professional golf this year (although he wants to). In the distance, more players backed out of the Summer Olympics as well, including Rory McIlroy who said before that he would represent Ireland.

Then Saturday, as Hurley was putting together a 67, the tour announced that the Greenbrier Classic scheduled for July 7-10 would be canceled due to devastating flooding in West Virginia.

It was enough to dampen the spirit of the sport following the second major of the season. But Hurley and a host of others revived things temporarily.

Just behind him on the leaderboard were two men on opposite sides of their career. Vijay Singh, 53, played splendidly all weekend, the only hiccup a 71 on Saturday that derailed his hopes of a historic win. Singh did come back with a 65 in the final round to finish in second.

In third place, Ben Hogan Award winner and low amateur at the U.S. Open, Jon Rahm impressed in his first professional start. He opened 64-67 before falling back with two rounds of 70. Still, the Spaniard will be one to watch over the next few months. Perhaps he could play himself onto the European Ryder Cup Team.

Those are some of the things we try to find between the bright lights of the big stars. Not every week is a major on the PGA Tour. But every week matters. Just ask Billy Hurley.