By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
It’s not often that golfers get to spend time discussing the game with a PGA professional, but it’s even rarer when that pro shares the camaraderie with fellow members of the armed forces.
Billy Hurley III is not only a professional golfer on the PGA Tour, but is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and as a lieutenant served as a ship handler on USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) until 2009.
No stranger to the driving range at the Navy/Marine Driving Range, Hurley, who will be participating in the 2014 Sony Open, returned to his old stomping grounds Jan. 7 and held a free golfing clinic for the joint base’s military personnel and family members.
“Hawaii is a special place for me and my family,” Hurley acknowledged. “We love being here and love the Navy too, so it’s kind of a fun homecoming of sorts.”
At the clinic, Hurley graciously greeted and answered questions from the audience while demonstrating his flawless driving skills.
The attentive crowd oohed and ahhed with every drive that Hurley smashed and held the golf pro for at least an hour with questions that covered both short and long games, as well as who impresses him on the PGA Tour.
Hurley said that he was glad that the audience didn’t pepper him with more technical questions, as he admitted that he is a better doer than teacher.
“If a technical question did come up, I wouldn’t have done a good job of answering it,” he said. “I play golf for a living and I don’t teach, and there’s a reason why.”
With each question, the personable golf pro responded with thoughtful answers and treated everyone with respect.
Hurley said that it’s the least he could do to help fellow golfers – especially since he feels so fortunate to live the dream that he envisioned as a boy.
“I was in high school and, sure, I wanted to play on the PGA Tour,” he noted. “I don’t know if I honestly thought I would get here, but it was a dream and something that drove me to success.”
Hurley credits much of his accomplishments to his service in the Navy, saying that it would always be a part of his life.
“It has helped me tremendously,” he stated. “I do a lot of things well because of the Navy – especially time management, scheduling, that kind of stuff. The Naval Academy, ships and all that stuff really honed my time management, mental toughness and perseverance.”
Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, who was also in attendance at the golf clinic, said that it is really special when someone like Hurley gives back to the community.
“It’s extremely rewarding, professionally and personally, to know that one of our own can start in the Navy, serve his country and then come out here and be a professional in another profession,” Williams said. “And at the same time, still come back to his roots and include us. He’s going to visit the Chung-Hoon tomorrow (Jan. 8). It makes them all feel good.”
Hurley pointed out that while the media seems to focus on just a handful of golfers on the tour, there are at least 500 very good golfers in the PGA.
The one thing that separates them from the selected few that gets all of the attention said Hurley, is that that the top golfers always appear to have a breakthrough year, which is something that he feels is coming to him.
“I do anticipate that I will,” he said. “I’ve had pieces of it show up in the last six months. I talked about my swing getting more and more repeatable and consistent and that’s kind of been a big deal. How soon is really a tough question, but I do think that this year has the kind of potential to be that kind of year. Whether it’s a win or not, it’s just me having more consistent finishes. I’m looking forward to this year for that purpose.”