Billy Hurley III’s tribute to his late father is a step in the golfer’s healing

Billy Hurley III
Billy Hurley III appears pleased with a shot at the 12th hole during the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on Thursday.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Billy Hurley III wanted fans to remember his father for the life he had led. For the way his dad had raised him, taught him the lessons he’d need as he was growing up, as well as the ones for his golf swing.   

He didn’t want fans to remember him for his death.   

Hurley’s father, Willard Hurley Jr., was a former police officer who took his own life in the summer of 2015. On Tuesday, the Players’ Tribune website published a heartfelt first-person piece by Hurley, a letter to his deceased father.  

He writes about the golf lessons, the guidance in making right and wrong choices, the closeness he had with his father.   


The letter ends this way:   

  “... I want people to know that, even though we don’t know why you did what you did, you made an incredible impact on everyone who loved you.    

“That’s what I remember about you. That’s what everyone should know about you.”    

On Thursday, two days after publication of the letter, Hurley was three shots off the lead after a 67 in the first round of the Genesis Open. He has received a great deal of reaction to the letter,  and hadn’t set his sights very high for this week.   


“I actually thought I was going to play poorly as a result,” he said. “Frankly, it was quite an emotional couple of days for me with that letter and the response. … It was way more than I ever thought it would be.”  

Hurley, 34, is a 2004 graduate of the Naval Academy. He has one tournament victory in his four-plus full seasons on tour. That came in the 2016 Quicken Loans National at Congressional near Washington, D.C. It was at that tournament a year earlier that Hurley had announced his father was missing. Not long after that, his body was discovered.   

The Players’ Tribune had approached Hurley about writing the letter quite a while ago. It took some time for Hurley to compose it.  

“It was an important step in the overall healing,” he said. “You know, 18 months ago it was about my dad taking his own life by suicide and not about the 62 years that he had lived. So I wanted to highlight how good of a dad he really was.”

Rain, rain, rain

No one is expecting much golf to be played Friday, with heavy rain and wind expected. First-day leader Sam Saunders has already canceled Friday in his mind.

“I mentally prepared for not playing golf [Friday] as I approached this week, and I said I’ll try to go and get off to a good start and know that Day 2 is probably not going to happen until Saturday.”   

 Within sight 


Playing with Jim Furyk (69) and Sergio Garcia (72), Phil Mickelson was in the group ahead of Dustin Johnson, and the two of them were atop the leaderboard together much of the morning. Johnson, who shot a 66, had a view of what Mickelson was doing, including Mickelson’s eagle at No. 17.

Did he notice?  

“No. I had enough to worry about with myself,” Johnson said. “If I’m worried about what other people are doing, then I’m probably not playing too well.”