Maybe you've heard of Billy Hurley III's contemporaries, the current pros who were his amateur teammates on the 2005 Walker Cup team. Guys such as J.B. Holmes, Anthony Kim and Jeff Overton.
Yeah, not a bad threesome.
But while that trio has spent the last five or six years making millions on the PGA Tour and moving up to the Ryder Cup, Hurley's been doing what most young American males haven't done for the past 40 years -- defending his country as a member of the U.S. Navy after graduation from Annapolis.
"I love the Navy," said Hurley after helping lead his team to a 51 in Wednesday's Children's Hospital Classic Pro-Am at Black Creek. "If it hadn't been for golf, I would have probably stayed in and tried to climb the ladder to become a C.O. of a ship.
"But," he added with a smile, "I've told my friends since I was a freshman at the Naval Academy that I was going to play on the PGA Tour one day. Right now, I'm closer than I've ever been to that goal."
There are dozens of reasons to drop by Black Creek this week for at least one round of our Nationwide Tour event, starting with our town's Luke List and Harris English, who could each make a run at the trophy.
Beyond that, if you still don't think these guys can play, consider that recent PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley was an also-ran at last year's Chattanooga Classic.
But just in case you further motivation, we offer up Hurley, who spent the five years of his life between 2005 and 2010 doing everything from teaching economics at the Academy, to guarding Iraqi oil rigs in the Persian Gulf to keeping aircraft carriers painted while at sea.
One quote concerning those oil rigs from a CBS sports line story about Hurley:
"Iraq has two oil platforms that make up 90 percent of their GDP," said Hurley, who was stationed on the USS Chung-Hoon destroyer at that time. "Iran would like nothing more than to make those disappear."
But through it all, the PGA dream never disappeared, in part because Hurley had won six of the 12 collegiate tournaments he played in as senior, in part because the Navy itself had briefly entertained the idea of releasing Hurley to the PGA Tour in much the same way it had previously allowed David Robinson to join the NBA and running back Napoleon McCallum to play in the NFL.
"I was saying, 'Hey, maybe you can use me better than an officer on a ship,'" Hurley told AOL.com last year. "There is precedent. There is actual written policy."
And the clean-cut Hurley would have been a wonderful recruiting tool for the Navy, what with his lovely wife, Heather, by his side, along with his 4-year-old son, Will, and 2-year-old, Jacob, who was adopted from Ethiopia. He even plays with cute Navy goat head covers in honor of the Academy's mascot.
But the Navy brass eventually decided against trumpeting a guy in the minors, as opposed to Robinson and McCallum, who had reached the top of their professions.
So Hurley remained in uniform, unable to return to golf full-time until last year. His longest stretch outside the game? During one five-month tour at sea he played exactly one round.
"I was fine was it," he said. "I got my education paid for and served my country. There are no regrets."
Beyond that, he'll tell you that the Navy taught him, "Time management and efficiency. At the Naval Academy you only got to play two hours a day. You had to make the most of it. If you didn't, you'd drown."
But spending five years in the service also left him much time to make up. Now 29 with a family to feed, Hurley needed to quickly set sail for his PGA Tour card.
It began slowly this spring, as if he were steering a paddleboat. After six Nationwide events, Hurley had missed five cuts and stood 174th on the money list.
Six months later, he's 23rd, with a second-place finish at Cincinnati to his credit. As long as Hurley finishes the year in the top 25, he's off to the PGA Tour to reunite with old pals such as Kim, Holmes and Overton.
"His putting is what makes him special," said one Tour player before Hurley could answer that question on Wednesday.
"I'd probably agree with that," he said. "I've always been a pretty good putter."
But if Hurley doesn't make it this time, is there a timetable for putting his professional golf career in dry dock?
"Not as long as I'm getting better," he said. "And I haven't stopped getting better yet."
At the rate he's getting better, Hurley just might have the rest of the Nationwide Tour crying "Mayday" by the end of the week.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...
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