Hurley has island ties

Naval Academy graduate spent part of tour stationed at Pearl Harbor

Billy Hurley III, shown watching a shot off the Kapalua Plantation Course’s first tee Monday during an SBS Tournament of Champions practice round, earned his first PGA Tour victory last year at the Quicken Loans National. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

KAPALUA — Even before hitting his first shot at the Kapalua Plantation Course, Billy Hurley III felt a connection to the SBS Tournament of Champions.

Hurley was stationed at Pearl Harbor during a five-year tour of duty after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004. He was a lieutenant aboard the USS Chung-Hoon, a guided-missile destroyer, serving in the Persian Gulf to protect Iraqi oil platforms.

This week he will be playing in the year’s opening PGA Tour event as a first-time winner.

“Coming to Hawaii is like coming home a little bit for us,” Hurley said before teeing off for a practice round Monday. “We lived in Honolulu for two years when I was stationed at Pearl Harbor. In 2008, my ship was the ceremony ship for the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony, so we were kind of right there.”

Hurley has been to Maui before, but hadn’t played the Plantation Course until Monday.

Workers tend to the Plantation Course’s 18th fairway Monday after recent rain that has created softer conditions. The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

“We loved being here,” he said. “We visited all the other islands while we lived here. … I never brought my clubs to another island, so I’ve never played anywhere but on Oahu.”

Hurley is one of 11 first-timers in the field of 32, and four others haven’t competed on Maui since at least 2010 — including Vaughn Taylor, who is making his first appearance in the winners-only event in 11 years.

The entire Hurley clan made the trip to the Valley Isle: his wife, Heather; sons Will, 10, and Jacob, 7; and 2-year-old daughter Madison.

“I think they’re going to be at the beach most of the time,” Billy Hurley said.

Hurley said recent heavy rain that has softened the fairways on the 7,452-yard, par-73 Plantation Course could help him this week.

Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 170 pounds, he ranks 65th on tour in driving distance with an average of 296.6 yards. His driving accuracy, however, is 46th, and he ranks 13th in total driving.

Hurley is also third in the tour’s “around-the-green” rankings, and 24th in putting.

“I’m not the longest guy out here by any stretch, so if the long hitters’ balls aren’t rolling as far that might help shorten the gap between our balls a little bit,” he said.

Hurley, ranked 133rd in the world, now resides where he went to college — in Annapolis, Md., about 50 miles from the site of last year’s win in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.

“It probably took me about a day and a half to realize it was real,” said Hurley, who was playing on a sponsor’s exemption. “And then, yeah, you think about the Masters and then you think about Kapalua, those are the two things. Those are the two things that come with winning that are great.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

SBS Tournament of Champions at a glance

At Kapalua Plantation Course

Field

Aaron Baddeley, Daniel Berger, Greg Chalmers, Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Tony Finau, Fabian Gomez, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, James Hahn, Jim Herman, Charley Hoffman, Mackenzie Hughes, Billy Hurley III, Dustin Johnson, Si Woo Kim, Russell Knox, Hideki Matsuyama, William McGirt, Ryan Moore, Rod Pampling, Pat Perez, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele, Brian Stuard, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Thomas, Jhonattan Vegas, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson.

*****

Gates open/first tee times

Pro-am (Wednesday)–7 a.m./7 a.m.

First round (Thursday)–9 a.m./10:20 a.m.

Second round (Friday)–9 a.m./10:20 a.m.

Third round (Saturday)–7 a.m./8:20 a.m.

Final round (Sunday)–7 a.m./7:20 a.m.

Note: Free public parking available at Lahaina Civic Center with shuttles to course starting 20 minutes prior to gates opening.

*****

On TV

Thursday

1 p.m.–First round, GOLF

Friday

1 p.m.–Second round, GOLF

Saturday

11 a.m.–Third round, GOLF

Sunday

10 a.m.–Final round, NBC

Noon–Final round, GOLF

*****

Previous champions

2016–Jordan Spieth

2015–Patrick Reed-x

2014–Zach Johnson

2013–Dustin Johnson

2012–Steve Stricker

2011–Jonathan Byrd-x

2010–Geoff Ogilvy

2009–Geoff Ogilvy

2008–Daniel Chopra-x

2007–Vijay Singh

2006–Stuart Appleby-x

2005–Stuart Appleby

2004–Stuart Appleby

2003–Ernie Els

2002–Sergio Garcia-x

2001–Jim Furyk

2000–Tiger Woods-x

1999–David Duval

x-won in playoff