PGA Tour veteran Billy Hurley III wrote an emotional letter Tuesday in The Players' Tribune that touched upon his upbringing in the game as well as his father's disappearance and ultimate death.
The golf course served as a backdrop for Hurley's youth as his father, Willard Hurley Jr., served as his swing coach until high school. But their relationship drew national headlines two years ago when the elder Hurley suddenly disappeared without a trace, leaving his pro golfer son to hold an impromptu press conference at the 2015 Quicken Loans National in which he pleaded through tears for his father to return.
"Dad ... that was hard. That was really, really hard," Hurley wrote. "My younger brother Dan told me later that he had never seen me cry before that press conference. Suddenly, your story was public. Our family's secret was out."
Willard Hurley was found three days later at a library in Texas, but told authorities that he was simply "traveling." He died two weeks later at age 61 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
While his father's sudden death gained significant media attention, Hurley wrote his "letter" in order to tell a more well-rounded story of the man who taught him the game and who worked player security at multiple Presidents Cups while a police officer in Leesburg, Va.
"After 18 months of reading stories about your death, our family has decided to focus on something else: your life," Hurley wrote. "In our minds, the world needs to know the real you."
Hurley admitted that he contemplated retirement early last year, but opted to continue playing and earned his first Tour victory at last year's Quicken Loans National, the same event where his father's disappearance had thrust him into the limelight one year prior.
"Winning a tournament made it OK to celebrate life again. It made it OK to have joy again," he wrote. "Winning closed a chapter in my life. I would have made it through the grief process without winning, but the fact that I did flipped everything from 'My dad committed suicide,' to 'My dad was a great man.'"