Fomer Bainbridge High School golfer is on the upswing

Austin Hurt - File Photo
Austin Hurt
— image credit: File Photo

Former BHS golfing standout Austin Hurt was having a solid round through the first 13 holes in last Tuesday’s opening round of the Washington State Amateur Championship.

Then disaster struck.

After Hurt’s drive on the 14th hole at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, his right eye suddenly began itching.

“It was a weird allergic reaction,” Hurt said. “Pretty soon I could hardly see out of it.”

He dumped three consecutive shots into a hazard and wound up with a sextuple bogey 11 on the hole, finishing the day with a nine-over-par 81.

Hurt, who began the tournament with “the idea that I could win – why else would you bother playing?” found himself relegated to “a mere afterthought,” as one newspaper reported.

“My goal was to get back to even par for the tournament, and maybe finish in the top ten,” he said.

After receiving treatment the following morning, Hurt shot a three-under par 69. Still, he was 12 strokes off the lead.

He shot another 69 on the third day, the lowest round of a very windy day with gusts of up to 25 miles an hour.

“It was a great round of golf,” he said. “I was still trying to get back to my goal.”

The round also gave him the lead in the Hurt family championship. His younger brother Kyle, a member of this year’s Spartan golf team, had posted 74 and 72 on the first two days before fading to 86. Kyle shrugged off any disappointment he may have felt to encourage his brother before Friday’s final round.

“He told me that anything was possible,” Hurt said.

Kyle proved to be a prophet. Buoyed by an eagle on the ninth hole, Hurt was four under at the turn. Telling himself he had a “legitimate chance to make a few birdies,” he did just that, birdieing three more holes and finishing with a course-record 65. That gave him a one-stroke victory with a four-day total of 284.

“It was pretty sweet,” he said.

Hurt’s adventures weren’t over. He left early Sunday morning for a camping trip at Shi Shi Beach in the state’s northwest corner. When he turned on his cell phone to check messages on Tuesday, he found an invitation to enter the Sahalee Players Championship. It is one of the most prestigious amateur tournaments in the world, with golfers coming from as far away as Australia.

“I was running through the forest, trying to find service,” Hurt laughed.

He rushed home, picked up his clubs and took a late afternoon ferry to Seattle in preparation for a Wednesday morning tee time.

Sahalee won’t be his only brush with top amateur competition. Last week’s win also qualified him for the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship at the end of this month in Tucson, Arizona.

Hurt is no stranger to top-level competition. He was on the Bainbridge team that advanced to the Little League World Series in 2001.

He had begun playing golf at that time, but it was just “a chance to get together with my buddies.” Baseball was his primary sport.

Things changed soon afterward. He went to two practices for a Babe Ruth team, then called the coach to say he wouldn’t be coming back.

“I just got tired of baseball,” he said.

He might have wondered if he made the right choice after his first competitive golf tournament. He shot a 91.

“That was pretty embarrassing,” he said. “It made me practice a little harder.”

The practice paid off, as he played on the Spartan varsity all four years. He was part of the state title-winning team as a junior, and placed second as an individual the following year. After a somewhat frustrating semester at Arizona State, he walked on at Washington State. Now a junior, he’s played varsity for the Cougars ever since.

But no matter how he fares as a Cougar – and afterward – it’s likely to be a long time before anything tops his amazing comeback in the summer of 2009.

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