Year After Tragedy Hurst Gets LPGA Chance
She was 15.
And her father -- her mentor, her biggest fan -- was gone.
Vicky Hurst got the call from her mother while waiting out a thunderstorm before playing in the LPGA's Ginn Open qualifying event, where she was expected to win a spot in the tournament field. Instead, still anguished, she and her mom wound up seeing the Ginn's third round as fans, quietly mingling among the gallery.
'I wasn't going to go,' Vicky says now, quietly, eyes looking down a bit. 'But he would have wanted that.'
And Joe Hurst would have loved what's coming next week.
His daughter will be alongside Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and newly crowned major champion Morgan Pressel in this year's Ginn Open in Reunion, Fla., on a sponsor's exemption. It'll be the second LPGA start for Hurst, who missed the cut at the U.S. Women's Open -- Joe Hurst's favorite event -- last summer.
'I will get nervous,' said Vicky, who signed up to play a practice round with Sorenstam at the Women's Open last summer. 'But I know what it's like now. I'm not used to it yet, but I know what to expect. And it doesn't make me that nervous. Makes me more excited than anything.'
Hurst's golf resume is already impressive.
She shot a 10-under 62 -- with a few missed birdie putts -- to win a high school district title in 2005, then shot 64 to win last year's Florida Class 1A state crown. She was second at last summer's U.S. Girls' Amateur and has won a slew of tournaments against other top juniors.
Given how she came into the world, none of that can be surprising.
Koko Hurst was about 39 weeks pregnant in June 1990 when she, her husband -- an Air Force colonel -- and two other men played golf at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Koko's doctor cleared her to play.
They were on their 16th hole when Koko's water broke. Joe Hurst had just hit one of his best shots of the day, setting up a 5-foot birdie try. Joe never took his putt. They left the ball on the green and darted for a nearby hospital.
'Vicky was born in two hours,' Koko said. 'I was beating all three guys when we left, too.'
Golf is in the Hurst bloodlines. Vicky's grandfather was 93 when he went out and played nine holes, set up a tee time for the next day, went to sleep and never awoke. Koko Hurst, who met her husband while he was stationed in her native Korea, was an accomplished club player. And Vicky's sister Kelly is a promising freshman on Florida's women's golf team.
Out of himself, his wife and two daughters, Joe Hurst was probably the fourth-best player.
'He was, you know, just a regular hacker,' said Vicky, a junior at Holy Trinity Episcopal in Melbourne. 'He loved golf. Every chance he got, he would go off to the golf course. He wasn't my coach or anything; he didn't know that much about the fundamentals of the game. But he always encouraged me.'
And his girls play in his memory.
When Kelly Hurst is home, she and Vicky are inseparable. They played a practice round together recently at their home course, Suntree Country Club in Melbourne, and other members greeted them everywhere they went -- the driving range, on the course, near the pool, even in the dining room where they munched on steak and salad for dinner with their mother afterward.
In fact, the girls are so close that when the family threw out Kelly's old bed a couple years ago, she didn't use a new one. Vicky has a king-sized one in her room, so Kelly just bunked there with her sister.
'We always just support each other,' Kelly said. 'I'm always so excited to watch her. There's never once that I've wanted her to fail at something. She handles everything so well. She doesn't show a lot of emotion when she wins or when she loses. It's tough, even for me, to understand sometimes how she's always so calm.'
That calmness was tested last summer.
Joe Hurst had been gone for about two months when Vicky went to play the U.S. Girls' Amateur. In the final against Jenny Shin, Hurst was three holes up with four holes left in the 36-hole match play final.
A birdie putt on the 35th hole would have won it and just slipped by. A two-putt from 25 feet on the 36th hole would have won it, and she couldn't deliver. On the first playoff hole, after her tee ball went into the water and a third shot found a bunker, Hurst conceded on the spot.
'It was tough,' she said. 'I learned a lot from those holes, that shot in the water.'
But the collapse didn't devastate Hurst. Quite the contrary; she says it inspired her to work harder toward playing on the LPGA Tour full time sometime soon, although she hasn't ruled out college, either.
She says she's undecided between college and turning pro. A good showing at the Ginn could change that.
'I've got the shots, I've got the distance,' Vicky said. 'But mentally, I don't know if I'm there yet. I've got time to figure it out.'
Related Links: Full Coverage - Ginn Open
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.