Year After Tragedy Hurst Gets LPGA Chance


2007 Ginn OpenMELBOURNE, Fla. -- A year has passed, but to Vicky Hurst, it's still a blur. The phone call with the news. The few hours in the hospital, before the life-support machines got turned off. The shock. The funeral.
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.'
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