When Gary Hurley held his head in his hands completely crestfallen after the 2019 Turkish Challenge and questioned his future in golf, he could hardly have thought he would be one round away from a DP World Tour card a few years later but here he is.
Part of the famed Irish ‘Famous Five’ from the 2015 GB&I Walker Cup team, the path to this point has been treacherous for the West Waterford native who has since fallen down the tours, battling all the mental anguish that comes with turning professional.
A gutsy fifth round of 70 leaves Hurley inside the top-25 in 16th place on seventeen-under at the Final Stage of Q-School and he left the Lakes Course in Tarragona visibly emotional, yet gleaming with pride over his performance having recovered from two bogeys in his opening four holes.
“I’m really happy with how I performed today,” said Hurley who rallied with four birdies in six holes. “Could have been better, could have been worse. Got off to a tricky start but stayed in it, stayed in the process of what I’m doing. I’m really proud of myself today and yesterday, everyday really to be honest because it is difficult.”
Hurley has had a year of redemption, already securing his Challenge Tour card via the Alps Tour Order of Merit. It’s all been part of a three-year journey under the stewardship of Dr. Ed Coughlan who has completely shifted his mental approach to the game.
Now a walking embodiment of possibilities, the Waterford man has learned to accept all outcomes in golf.
“It would be brilliant to earn a card. I’m not going to say it would mean everything because it doesn’t. It would be beautiful to be on the European Tour next year. I’ve been through a tough time in my life with golf and to be in this position I am proud to be here.
“I’m really proud of what I’m doing and to get a card tomorrow would be brilliant and if I don’t that will be brilliant because I know how I want to be tomorrow and allow the golf to take care of itself.
“I’m really happy with what I’m doing and looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. I’m really happy with what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Whether the results are good, whether I get a card or not is not the most important thing to me.
“I’m excited for what’s to come, nervous, everything, expecting everything and nothing at the same time, open to the future and looking forward to what’s on the other side of it,” added the 29-year-old.
From the outside looking in, Q-School is portrayed as a graveyard for golfers trying to resurrect their careers, searching for job security knowing that a harsh reality awaits them should they fail and Hurley knows more than most how difficult the grind can be.
“This week feels more final. If you’re playing an event in the middle of the season, there’s next week’s event as well and maybe the week after. If you can manage to make peace with this week and just do the work you have been doing all year and allow it to happen, don’t try and force anything, allow it to come to you, be open to it and that’s what I’ve been doing all year.
“You’re uneasy all the time even in the evenings but once you get on the course it’s a little bit better because you are now doing it whereas when you’re away from it, it can be a little bit much at times.
“To explain Q-School to people at home, it’s a long week, six rounds I played four rounds and I was like ‘Jesus two more rounds to go’ but yeah it’s an experience. I’m delighted to be here and the position I’m in and all to go after tomorrow,” he added with the emotion of his journey audible.
In truth, each member of Ireland’s ‘Famous Five’ has endured their own struggles while entering the paid ranks. Paul Dunne, Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan have fallen off the DP World Tour while Naas man Jack Hume gave up the game.
Having nearly followed Hume, Hurley could see his last three years of endeavour come to fruition on Wednesday afternoon with a ticket to the DP World Tour and his best years ahead of him.
“I’ve been doing it all year, I’ve had a lot of adversity in rounds especially on the Alps Tour where I was there or thereabouts getting into the top-5 and getting a Challenge Tour card. I managed to stay in it and it’s really under my control whether I do or not. If I prepare properly for the day no matter what happens I’ll be okay and what I want to be good at I will, if I prepare properly.
“There’s a lot going through my mind, I’d say there’s a lot going through everybody’s mind. I’m just sticking to what I’m doing, I’ve said numerous times, the last three years I have had a huge shift in my behaviour, how I process failure to success and everything to do with golf. I have created a separation between golf and my life.
“I’ve had a really good year with it this year, the results have been really strong and have showed that those aren’t the end all of everything. Obviously I would love to get one, but the work I’m doing is creating something for a successful career not just this week.”