Hurley, first service academy graduate to make PGA Tour, debuts at Sony

billy hurley
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Billy Hurley spent two years of active duty aboard the USS Chung-Hoon, a missile destroyer based in Pearl Harbor, before leaving in 2009 and setting his sights on succeeding as a professional golfer.
By
PA Sport

Series: PGA Tour

Billy Hurley will make his debut as a full member of the PGA Tour on Thursday at the Sony Open -- just two and a half years after leaving his position as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Hurley will join the likes of Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner Steve Stricker, world No. 7 Webb Simpson and K.J. Choi in Hawaii, where Mark Wilson won last year.

Hurley spent two years of active duty aboard the USS Chung-Hoon, a missile destroyer based in Pearl Harbor, before leaving in 2009 and setting his sights on succeeding as a professional golfer.

While at the Naval Academy, the 29-year-old had excelled in the amateur game and played in the Palmer Cup and Walker Cup.

The Navy was set to give Hurley the chance to play full-time on the PGA Tour, but he was unable to earn his card.

After teaching economics, Hurley was assigned to the Chung-Hoon in 2007 and spent two years on the ship, but he effectively abandoned golf. And when he returned to the game he struggled to rediscover top form.

"[I was] really poor," Hurley said. "When you take time off, it's the finesse shots that become tough.

"Sure, you can go out there and swing 100 percent at a 7-iron and hit it fine," he explained. "But when you've got to take five yards off a 7-iron, you've got no chance. Those were the things that were very difficult to get back."

Hurley competed on the Nationwide Tour in 2011 and in 20 starts enjoyed nine top-25 finishes, including four top-10s. He eventually claimed the last 2012 PGA Tour card by finishing 25th on the money list.

He was was invited back to the Chung-Hoon for a tour this week and is realistic about his expectations going into the event at Waialae Country Club.

"Sure, you'd love to win a golf tournament and put yourself in contention as much as possible, but really if I just sit here and try to become better, go through the process of getting better, then I'll end up contending somewhere down the road," he added.

"I want to be the guy from the Navy, from the Naval Academy. Nobody's really done it before," he said. "I'm proud to be the first service academy grad to play on the Tour full-time. I want to have that emblem on me."