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Leesburg native Hurley III in mix at AT&T National

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Leesburg native Hurley III in mix at AT&T National

A little more than three years ago, Billy Hurley III was a Navy officer aboard a destroyer charged with protecting Iraqi oil platforms in the Persian Gulf.
On Thursday, the 30-year-old was at Congressional Country Club, playing his way into early contention in the AT&T National.
If the journey from active duty to the PGA Tour sounds like an intriguing story, it is and then some.I remember standing on a putting green 12 years ago during Plebe Summer, Hurley said, referring to the Naval Academys training program for incoming freshmen, and telling one of my classmates that I was going to play on the PGA Tour.
He laughed, recalled Hurley, who wasnt a top junior golfer and whose only scholarship offer was from Navy. He was like, Good luck with that.
Hurley, who grew up in Leesburg, Va., and currently lives with his wife and two children in Annapolis, knew it was going to be a difficult path.
He just didnt know how difficult.
During his four years at Navy, Hurley blossomed into a standout golfer, capturing seven collegiate golf titles and captaining the 2004 Palmer Cup team. He also earned a degree in quantitative economics.
Then, all of a sudden my senior year, I just took a couple of steps forward and became good enough to try to become a professional golfer, he said.
The Tour, however, had to wait. First, Hurley had five years of mandatory service in the Navy to serve.
During his time away from game, his sweet swing and short game skills deteriorated. In his words, he had become a recreational golfer.
I played a lot for the first three years, he said. The Navy let me play on the Walker Cup team in 05. But the last two years, I was on a ship in Hawaii and I played very little, probably once a month. I played maybe five competitive rounds in two years out there. It was a hiatus in a sense from golf.
After resigning his commission from the Navy in 2009 and stepping off the USS Chung-Hoon for the final time, Hurley went about fixing his neglected game.
In 2011, he joined the Nationwide Tour and, in 20 starts, amassed one runner up finish, four top-10s and nine top-25s. By finishing 25th on the Nationwides money list, he earned the final tour card on the PGA Tour for 2012.
So far, though, Hurleys transition to professional golfs top rung has been a difficult one. In fact, hes only made the cut five times in 17 starts this season.
Which is why his first-round 69 created such a stir at Congressional.
That and, of course, his unique background and ties to the tournaments support of active and retired members of the military, all of whom receive complimentary tickets and food.
That connection was not lost on Hurley as he carded a round that included three birdies and one bogey.
You have a lot of military out here, which was really fun for me today, Hurley said. There were a lot of Beat Armies getting thrown around there.
Somebody said, Go Army, he cracked. So we had to correct him.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.