Q&A With Billy Horschel
Amateur Spotlight: Horschel
Grows Into Game
March 20, 2008
By Stuart Hall
For Billy Horschel, there was no one defining moment, no
"hello world" proclamation. Rather, his emergence onto
the national amateur scene has been a series of confident steps
dating back to the summer of 2005.
"I wasn't anything special as a junior golfer,"
said Horschel. "I had the ability, I had the game. I just
needed to get over the hump and prove to myself that I belonged
at the same level as these other players."
The first stride came in an early June American Junior Golf
Association tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that summer.
Horschel tied for second and had a couple of strong showings
throughout the summer; he also qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
By the time Horschel arrived on the University of Florida campus
that fall as a freshman, he was ready for his next challenge.
|Billy Horschel shows off his ball after
firing a USGA record 11-under 60 on the first day of stroke
play at the 2006 U.S. Amateur. (John Mummert/USGA)|
"I was just like, 'If I can get into the lineup, get
into a tournament, that would be just a goal in
itself,'" he said. "If I could do that, then I knew
I could play with anyone in the country."
Horschel cracked the lineup in the Gators' fall debut
tournament, the Inverness Invitational, and tied for 10
. "Things just sort of sky rocketed from there," said
Horschel, a two-time first-team All-American and reigning SEC
Player of the Year.
He's been a national figure ever since.
Midway through his junior spring season, Horschel has three
collegiate wins - two of them being NCAA Regional titles - and 20
top-10 finishes. And he is as formidable a player as any in the
amateur ranks. Last year, he lost to Webb Simpson at the Azalea
Amateur. He then posted top-five finishes at the Northeast
Amateur, Southern Amateur and Porter Cup.
There was his performance at the Palmer and Walker Cup matches,
when he went a combined 7-1 in helping the United States sweep
the international titles.
To watch the 5-foot-11, 154-pound Horschel play golf is to watch
a stridently confident and intense 21-year-old player who
fearlessly attacks a golf course. All he asks of himself is to be
in a position to win, which is why he chose to take the path of
golf over team sports. He did it because he did not want to have
to rely on a teammate who was not giving his all to win.
"You know with Billy that you will always get his best
effort," said Florida coach Buddy Alexander at last
year's NCAA Championships. "The results might not always
be what you would like, but he's going to be out there
Even on bad days, Horschel knows that, similar to a three-point
shooter who may miss 12 shots in a row, the next shot could be
the one that turns a round 180 degrees. On good days? Well .
There was a U.S. Golf Association record 11-under 60 on the first
day of stroke play at the 2006 U.S. Amateur in Chaska, Minn. Or a
course-tying record 9-under 62 at the 2006 Western Refining
College Golf All-America Classic in El Paso, Texas. And a 7-under
63 later that year at the Ping/Golfweek Preview Invitational that
tied for the third-lowest round in school history.
"When I was in high school, I'd get four under after
seven, eight, nine holes and then end up shooting two over,"
said Horschel. "Then you tend to get scared, you get out of
that aggressive mode, you start making bogeys instead of birdies.
I've learned over the years that when you get in the groove,
you've just got to keep attacking."
That's the exact kind of mindset Walker Cup captain Buddy
Marucci was looking for last year when he sent Horschel and
Rickie Fowler out in the first foursomes match on Sunday morning
against Great Britain and Ireland with the match tied 6-6.
At one point early, Horschel and Fowler were 4 down. But then the
pair won seven consecutive holes en route to a 2-and-1 victory
that spurred the Americans on to a 10-6 victory on Irish soil.
Horschel's efforts produced a 3-1 record.
"Billy likes to go and he wants to go and he wants to get
out there," said Marucci. "For Billy, waiting around is
not really a good alternative. So we wanted Billy out there
Horschel admitted his emotions sometimes tend to overshadow his
play, but that they have been a point of emphasis this spring.
"Everyone who knows me knows I'm a very emotional
person, and me and Buddy have done a lot of work to try and be a
little bit calmer out there," said Horschel. "He tells
me when I'm playing well; he doesn't care what I do out
there because that emotion is what takes me to a low score. But
when I'm not playing well, I just let too much show. I just
need to be calmer when things aren't going well."
Horschel said that in recent week's he has begun to see the
benefit of Alexander's sage advice. Even though he has not
broken through for a win this spring, he realizes the next one
could be in the offing.
"You have to think that way," he said. "The game
is hard enough without being confident."
And Horschel certainly does not lack confidence.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously
appeared on usga.org.
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