BETHESDA - Winning the Quicken Loans National would be emotional for local favorite Billy Hurley III.
Emotional because it would be Hurley’s first PGA Tour victory. Emotional because Hurley grew up in Leesburg, Virginia and attended the Naval Academy. Now living in Annapolis, Md, Hurley has been cheered on by friends and family all week at Congressional Country Club.
Emotional because Hurley’s late father, Willard Hurley Jr., disappeared during the week of this tournament last year. Although Hurley’s father was found during last year’s tournament, he died several weeks later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Hurley was setting the pace holding a two-stroke lead at 15 under par for the tournament (66-65-67, 198), head of Ernie Els 66-65-65, 200)), and three strokes better than rookie Jon Rahm (64-67-70, 201), who was making his pro debut.
Many thoughts will race through Hurley’s mind during Sunday’s final round, but he hoped to keep his focus on winning.
“I can’t think of a better one for me to win to be my first win on Tour,” said Hurley.
Hurley’s father was a police sergeant who sometimes worked at tournaments controlling the galleries. Asked if he thought about his father during Saturday’s round, Hurley said, “You know, obviously I think about my dad a lot.”
Hurley said he thought about his father walking from No. 9 to No. 10, but on the course, Hurley looked unflappable during Saturday’s four-under-par bogey-free round.
“I’m probably making it look a little easier than it is,” Hurley said.
It will take a strong effort from Hurley to hold off Els and the other contenders. But Hurley took the long road to the PGA Tour, serving in the Navy for five years after graduation. One of Hurley’s Navy experiences was navigating a ship through the Persian Gulf.
Hurley hoped that background would help him navigate his emotions on Sunday.
“Mental toughness is kind of a big thing,” Hurley said. “You either learn it at the Naval Academy or you’re not there very long, so that definitely helps in adversity on the golf course.”