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Billy. Billy, Billy

For the last month on the PGA Tour, the Tour’s hottest player has been a player who has never won. Until now.

27 year old Floridian, Billy Horschel, birdied the final hole of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to claim his first victory in the most dramatic of fashions. Horschel started the last round 2 shots behind overnight leader, Lucas Glover.

Horschel is a bundle of energy who can make the Energizer Bunny look as though it is stagnant. He also plays the game quickly (which in this day and age of 5+ hour rounds is a breath of fresh air), and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. His swing mirrors his personality and is a fast and very effective motion.

Nothing has come easy for Horschel. He was a ‘walk-on’ at the University of Florida where he would go onto to become a star and a four time All American.  After securing his PGA Tour card at the 2009 Q school, he injured his wrist and was limited to playing in only 4 events in his rookie year. He missed the cut in all of them.

Horschel would re-qualify for the Tour at Q school in 2010. He would then miss the first 6 cuts of his 2011 season before he finally made his inaugural cut at the Mayakoba Classic finishing 13th.  He ended that season an unspectacular 140th on the money list.

After recording a career high 3rd in the True South Classic in the 2012 Tour season, Horschel would find himself back at Q school, at the end of that year. It was familiar ground to the talented Gator, but was certainly not ground that he wanted to continue walking.

Continuing a streak that started towards the end of last year, Horschel came into this week’s tournament having made the cut in his last 22 events. In his last three tournaments he has finished second, third, and tied for ninth. 

Horschel put his game into over-drive in Sunday’s final round by making six consecutive birdies. Beginning on the 8th, he took a two shot lead at 19-under par until a bogey at the 15th would slightly stall that momentum. As this was all happening, D.A. Points was also playing some spectacular golf. Having started the day tied with Horschel at 12 under, the recent winner in Houston would reel off four consecutive birdies from holes 10-13.

Standing on the final tee, Horschel still held a one shot lead over Points. After both players teed off, a weather warning was issued and play was suspended. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a delay like this might be the worst possible thing for the fidgety Horschel.

After an hour’s delay, play resumed. Horschel chose to lay up on his second shot on the par-5 closing hole, while Points who had bisected the fairway with his drive, pulled his second shot into the greenside bunker.  

Horschel played his third shot to 24 feet short of the flag, while Points hit a great bunker shot to 5 feet, almost guaranteeing his birdie 4. Casting aside any of the haunting failures that would have overwhelmed so many others, the fiery Horschel made the putt. His fist pumping and emotional reaction would illustrate how very much this win meant to him.

In a way there are echoes from golf’s greatest movie, Caddy Shack, where Judge Smails beseeches his putter, “Billy” to make a crucial putt by saying, “Spaulding, this one calls for the old Billy Ború. Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy. This is a biggie! Don’t let me down, Billy! Forty thousand dollars, Billy.”

This Billy, the Horschel variety, made it.

This game will always test the resolve of the most resilient of those who play it, at any level. To have been tested as much as he has, stands Horschel in great stead, and reminds us all that success is always earned.