UP CLOSE: Billy Horschel – Pure Joy, Pure Class
By Charles Parker // October 13, 2014
SPECIAL SPORTS SPOTLIGHT FEATURE
From Grant To Gainesville To Atlanta…and Back Home To Jacksonville. A $10 Million Journey, Which Has Really Only Just Begun.
As the crow flies, Grant, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia are about nine hours apart. One is rural and lazy – with a seafood festival as its namesake. The other is the capitol of the New South – a settling ground for many corporate headquarters and a major sports mecca.
In his short five-year career as a professional golfer, Billy Horschel had the opportunity to bridge this geographical and cultural gap…and then some.
At the beginning of this year-ending spate of tournaments – golf’s playoff system – Horschel had started in 69th place and had dropped at one point to 82nd.
But he arrived in Atlanta in mid-September having won the BMW Championship the week before by two-shots over Bubba Watson – and was in second place in FedEx Cup points behind Chris Kirk. His ascendance was remarkable.
Prior to the start of this final tournament, Space Coast Daily asked Horschel – a 2014 inductee into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame – about his strategy at East Lake and this final run at a life-changing moment.
“No different than any other week. I will strive to make as many birdies as I can and limit the bogies and other scores that are not positive.”
Horschel stepped up to the 17th tee facing one of the two hardest driving holes at East Lake Golf Club. A drive in the fairway would give him a good shot at par.
A par would inch him closer to the win…and the title…and the money…and new prestige. He watched Furyk – playing in the group ahead – three-putt for bogey.
Horschel had a cushion. But he still had to hit the shot.
Without hesitation he settled over the ball, took the club back, and swung.
The golf ball sailed to center of the short grass. An iron to the green and two putts put Horschel in the catbird seat with one hole to play.
Billy grew up in south Brevard. He attended and played golf at Bayside High School. He then headed to Gainesville and became a Gator.
He is the first in his family to earn a college degree – graduating in 2009. Horschel credits his college golf coach, Buddy Alexander, for much of his success.
In a recent interview for a New Orleans-based newspaper, Horschel said, “He (Alexander) took me from being a kid out of high school that was a halfway decent player to two, three, four levels above that and into a Tour player.
I still seek out Buddy’s advice to this day about stuff on the golf course and even about stuff off the golf course.”
ABOVE VIDEO: Billy Horschel was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame last May.
East Lake’s final hole is a 232-yard par 3. The green is protected by two sand traps in the front. Horschel just needed to make par. He took dead aim. His ball flew on a slight right-to-left arc.
It settled on the green about 20 feet away. As he walked the fairway to the green, he talked incessantly to his caddie. He motioned with his hand – maybe talking about the tee shot, maybe talking about the upcoming putt. Maybe just talking to calm his nerves.
Playing partner Rory McIlroy slowed and let him walk to the green first. For a time, as the crowd’s cheering grew and grew, he kept his head down. But then, as he reached the green, he removed his hat and revealed his smile.
Billy Horschel knew he would do what he had set out to do. Two putts later, he stood upright, shook his caddie’s hand and then hugged him.
He looked at the crowd – wide-eyed. No tears and no antics. Pure joy and pure class.
In the lead-up to the tournament, Horschel reflected on his improbable run and what had made the difference to put him in position to win.
“Continued hard work and I have been a little more committed. My confidence has come from seeing results on the course.”
SEEING RESULTS ON THE GOLF COURSE
In the final three tournaments of the 2013-14 PGA season, Billy Horschel played nine consecutive rounds in the 60’s – not too shabby for a 27-year old.
In the final round of the 2013-14 PGA season, with $10 million on the line, Billy Horschel went head-to-head with the young gun McIlroy and the aging gunslinger Furyk. And he won.
Billy Horschel walked off the green doing the Gator chomp, smiling at the Georgia-bred boos – scattered amidst the golf world’s accolades.
But Billy’s magical journey did not end at East Lake that Sunday afternoon. Two days later, his wife Brittany gave birth to their first child – a daughter named Skylar.
“The last few weeks have been a whirlwind with so many incredible moments, but being able to share this moment with Brittany was the biggest win of my life,” Horschel said.
“I’m so happy I was here, surrounded by the people I care about, as we welcomed Skylar into the world. Now I can start getting her ready to win the 2032 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship for the Florida Gators!”
From Grant to Gainesville to Atlanta…and back home to Jacksonville. A $10 million journey, which has really only just begun.