Sponsor’s Delight

(Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Billy Hurley III was invited to play this last week at the Quicken Loans National by the tournament’s host, Tiger Woods, under a “sponsor’s exemption.” Spoiler: Billy won the tournament.

That’s pretty cool…but there’s even more to it than that.

Let’s take a step back: Billy grew up about an hour outside of Washington, D.C. He attended the Naval Academy, and currently resides in Annapolis, Md. Since 2011, he has been bouncing back and forth between the Web.com and PGA Tours. He lost his card for this season and has had limited starts on the PGA Tour while supplementing them with starts on the Web. So, why the hell did one of the greatest-of-all-time give him an invite to play this week?

Well…this last year has been tough on Billy to say the least. Exactly one year ago at the Quicken Loans National, Billy lost his father. He wasn’t gone forever, he just…ran away. Billy’s father suffered from severe depression…and was soon found in Texas watching the Quicken Loans on a library computer. Only weeks later, Billy lost his father for good. Billy Jr. took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Billy lost his Tour card later that year.

This season, with only limited starts on Tour, Billy wasn’t able to play in his hometown event. That’s when Tiger stepped in. Armed with a sponsor’s invite from the Big Cat himself, Billy was able to play this week with the support of family, friends, and fellow midshipmen.

But his was no easy task. He wasn’t the only story-line of the week.

Jon Rahm was the first round leader in his professional debut. Only days before, he was the World’s number one amateur golfer. He placed T-23rd in the U.S. Open at Oakmont a week earlier, earning low-am honors. Rahm has already had experience in playing PGA Tour events, finishing T-5th in the 2015 WM PHX Open and T-10th in the 2016 OHL Mayakoba. He finished T-3rd this week to earn a nice paycheck around $400K and qualify for The Open Championship in a couple of weeks.

Ernie Els, the 1997 U.S. Open Champion at this very course (Congo), was also making a run this week. He hasn’t won on Tour since his 2012 Open Championship victory, and his 5th place finish this week has been his best all year.

Vijay Singh. That rings a bell, right? He was also in the hunt this week. That may not be so surprising since he’s won nine tournaments in one season before (2004), but…it should be. Vijay is now part-time on the PGA Tour Champions at 53 years old. If he had pulled it off this week, he would’ve become the oldest winner EVER on Tour! Sam Snead won an event in 1965 when he was 52. Vijay, well, he came close…finishing second.

So, back to Billy. How’d he close it out? Like a seasoned veteran. He chipped in on 15 for birdie from in front of the green and gave the crowd a huge fist pump. On the par 5 16th, he rolled in close to a 30 foot birdie putt to go three ahead with two to play. After 72 holes, Billy Hurley III won his first PGA Tour title, and is now fully-exempt through the next two seasons. Anchors Aweigh, he’ll be here awhile.

Note** Navy’s mascot is “Bill the Goat.” I can’t help but interpret this as, “Billy Hurley, the Greatest-(golfer)-Of-All-Time (at Navy).”

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