Gary Hurley left the K Club this week a winner. Not with a trophy or a winners cheque in his back pocket but with his head held high knowing he is on the right path as he battles to get back to where we all know the West Waterford man belongs.
Hurley was pleased to produce the golf he’s been playing all year in front of a huge home crowd but there is a bigger picture for Gary and he is tackling it head on.
“I’ve had a tough few years at the Irish Challenge. I generally haven’t played well at the tournament and this was the first time i made the cut but I’ve always had great support at home so it was nice to play well in front of them and give them something to cheer about.”
And cheer they did. You could feel the warmth and emotion on every fairway and green as hundreds fans, family and friends were present to help their man on his journey.
Hurley had spoken before the tournament about a change in behaviour that has reaped rewards this season. Not only did he break through with victory on the Alps Tour but he’s been super consistent and sits inside the top-5 on the Order of Merit knowing that should he stay there, he’ll earn Challenge Tour promotion next season.
That new change in approach and behaviour was on full show at The K Club as Hurley walked the fairways with an air of calm, accepting the bad shots and embracing the good ones en route to his best finish at The Irish Challenge, a tie for 5th.
“I’m separating the shot outcome, anything to do with where the ball is finishing. I’m reflecting on my process rather than reflecting on what’s happening with the ball,” Hurley explained of a change in approach that has influenced his life away from the course as well.
“I’ve been making huge strides with that. I still have a long way to go but it’s changed me completely on the course. I’m a different person on the golf course. I think I’m a little bit of a different person off the golf course as well.
“A bit more chilled, bit more relaxed, less anxiety-ridden which is great. But all those nerves are still there, they don’t go away. I just choose to accept them for what they are and I choose my own narrative on the course: What I want to be, how I want to think, what I want to do. And that’s pretty much what I changed.”
If you want an example of how Hurley has changed, you only have to listen to how he describes carding a final round of one-over-par, not what he wanted but it’s safe to say it wasn’t going to dampen his week, a week of progress.
“Over par today is not really important” he said. “I played brilliant today. I controlled my emotions really well and every shot got full engagement with the work I’m doing. There were a few more nerves a bit more noise but this is what I’ve been training for, this is what we work for, to be in these situations.
“I’m trying to live a life where the process and the journey of what I’m doing is more important than what happened.
“I holed that putt on the last and that was the difference between finishing 5th and 12th but it doesn’t really matter though. I can’t control anything that happens outcome-wise directly but indirectly I can control It with how I am as a person and how I operate and I do feel the work is really paying off.
“I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.I’m very happy, I’m actually a little bit emotional thinking back to where I was and how I have played today and how I was all week.
“My whole family came up today it was an amazing feeling. I’ve got great support, I’ve always had it and it’s probably why I’m still doing it. If I didn’t have that support three or four years ago I might be playing golf.”
Hurley’s new found perspective on golf and indeed life is to be admired. He openly shares the ups and downs and processes the outcomes on the golf course his way. Tod Clements and Tom McKibbin may have claimed the crystal on offer as winners but Hurley knows he won his battle this week.
“Today does feel like a win, I did win this week. I won with myself and my emotions and how I handled myself. It’s becoming nearly normal for me at this stage, it doesn’t mean it’s easy but this is now the way I play, this is how I operate, my operating system has undergone a serious upgrade in the last 2 years and yeah the battery life is up.
“I’m just going to stay with it, keep having good conversations with my coaches asking good questions and not shying away from things that scare me. I’m choosing to back myself in a way that is more peaceful and healthy”, he added “You’ve got to be willing to feel the nerves and hit the shot anyway.”
The next step on the journey will take Hurley to Finland this week. His top 10 finish earned him another start, another opportunity to test himself and another opportunity for us to enjoy what a talent he is both on and off the course. Play well Gary, we are all rooting for you.
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