You might think if you went all the way to the Little League World Series that Major League Baseball would be your dream.
Not for Austin Hurt of Bainbridge Island.
Instead, he quit that game, started playing golf, and recently qualified for the PGA Championship May 16-22 in Tulsa, OK.
It’s the first time he’s qualified for a PGA tour event, although he’s come close over the years a few times.
Hurt, the head pro at Wing Point Golf and Country Club, finished in the top 20 in the qualifying tournament. He shared that he sank a 30- or 40-foot putt to save par on one hole, and that ended up being the difference as he made it by a stroke.
He said his putter was the best part of his game in the tourney. In one 11-hole stretch he only had 13 putts. “The greens were fantastics,” as he described putts as rolling pure and smooth. Hurt said he practices a lot on putting. “It counts one stroke, just like a 300-yard drive,” he said.
He shot a 66 on the first round followed by a 68, 73 and 75. “It’s not the trend you want but it was because of the weather,” which became very windy.
As to why he qualified this time when he hadn’t been able to earlier, Hurt said maturity had a lot to do with it.
“It’s been a big, long, life lesson for me,” he said, adding if he hits a bad shot he’s better at forgetting about it and moving on. “A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have handled it as well.”
Hurt said many golfers worry about the final result. To be successful, your goal should be that your next shot is the best that it can be.
Along with a better mental approach, Hurt said he’s been improving his fitness at a local Crossfit. That has improved his flexibility and also his strength and cardio to walk 11 miles on a golf course.
And of course there’s practice. Hurt said he practices all the time in all kinds of weather. “I’m out here all the time,” he said of Wing Point.
Hurt also said his younger brother Kyle was his caddy at the qualifying tourney. He was not only his coach, but also great for support.
He has always been consistent, but Hurt now feels he’s playing within himself. “If I make the pars the birdies will come later,” he said.
While he would love to be on the PGA Tour, Hurt said he also loves being here near his parents. “Family is very important to me,” he said. “And the community in general. Somewhere else I’d just be another guy.”
Hurt played catcher on the Bainbridge Island Little League team that made the World Series in 2001. “It was a total blast,” he said.
But when they returned, and he started playing Babe Ruth baseball, he decided to quit the game because he was “burned out.”
He picked up some golf clubs and started playing with his buddies. He liked the game because he didn’t have “to rely on a team to play.” He liked that it was “quiet, peaceful, a sanctuary.”
Hurt said it wasn’t that tough for him to change from a baseball to a golf swing. “At that age you just want to hit the ball somewhere. It’s just one’s moving and the other stationary.”
He started playing junior tournaments and playing well. He joined the Bainbridge High School team and earned a letter all four years. He was 26th in state as a sophomore as the team placed second. He was 13th at state as a junior when the team won the title. And he was second at state as a senior as the team placed fourth.
Hurt went on to play at Washington State University, having the lowest freshman scoring average in the school’s history at 73.8. He was 18th in the Pac-10 Championships that year, which was his best as a Coug.
He finished his career from 2006-10 sixth on the school’s all-time list with 18 Top 25 finishes in golf tournaments. The sports management major also had seven Top 10 career finishes.
Hurt was assistant pro at Wing Point for seven years before being named to the top spot about a year ago. He also coached the boys golf team at BHS from 2016-18.