By Chad Konecky, Special to SI.com, from RISE
These days, it's not unusual for Holy Trinity Episcopal junior Vicky Hurst to feel like she's leading two lives. There is her golf life and then there is the rest of her life.
Perhaps it's best to let her explain.
"I do feel like my life is so crazy sometimes," says Hurst, who turned 16 this past June. "It's weird. My friends from school don't really know what I have to go through and they don't know a lot about golf. I'll explain that I'm playing in the U.S. Open and they'll be like, 'Cool.' They don't understand what a big deal that is. They're always asking about what a par or a birdie is. I love them, but I try not to talk about golf with my friends from school."
For a star golfer such as Hurst, trying not to talk about golf is a little bit like a butterfly trying to ignore its wings. After all, check out just a few highlights from her impressive resume. In 2005 alone, she won the Florida Women's State Golf Association Junior Girls' Championship, she was named the FWSGA Junior Player of the Year and she finished second in a playoff at the FHSAA Class 1A state finals to a girl who turned pro a month later. And this year, Hurst has already finished runner-up at the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship and tied for second at the FWSGA Junior Girls' Championship.
Oh, and she wasn't kidding about the U.S. Open. She did play in the LPGA Major in late June. Exactly three weeks removed from being all of 15 years old. And that is a gigantic deal. Not that Hurst was feeling the heat.
"I guess something like the U.S. Open is a tournament I'm trying to win, but nobody is going to be disappointed if I don't," says Hurst, who battled her way to rounds of 78 and 82 at the 2006 U.S. Women's Open in Newport, R.I., missing the cut by 10 strokes. "It's the Junior tournaments that I'm really expected to win where I feel more pressure."
Hurst's nonchalance about playing on one of the grandest stages in women's golf doesn't surprise former Holy Trinity girls' golf coach Beverly Mitchell, who coached Hurst during her first two high school seasons (Holy Trinity didn't have enough golfers to field a girls' team this fall, so Hurst will play for the boys' squad this year).
"She has this quiet calm and she produces all the time," says Mitchell. "She's built up her mental persistence and preparation over time. On top of that, she has all of the skills and all of the shots. She's history in action."
As a sophomore last fall, Hurst shot back-to-back rounds of 67 at the Class 1A state finals, matching St. Andrew's then senior Morgan Pressel stroke for stroke for a two-day score of 134. Now a rising star in the LPGA, Pressel birdied the second sudden-death hole to win in a playoff.
With her runner-up status last year, Hurst served notice that her 16th-place finish at the state finals as a freshman was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, at the 2005 district tournament, Hurst fired a jaw-dropping round of 62 to best the second-place finisher by 16 strokes.
In other words, we're talking about a rare talent here. Naturally, whenever young golfers put up the numbers Hurst is posting, they tend to be asked to grow up fast. Everything changes. Even golfing.
"Now, even when I go to shoot a practice round, people watch from the clubhouse," says Hurst, who is wide open regarding her college favorites. "It makes it difficult if I'm just out there fooling around, which I do a lot. I have to be more serious. Even when I talk to people, I have to concentrate because people expect me to use proper speech all the time."
By the same token, as Hurst's golf game has become more important to the masses, competing in the game of golf has become more important to her.
"Four years ago, I already loved the competition, but when the round was over I was ready to do something else because I'd been golfing for five hours," says Hurst, who also won the FWSGA title in the 10-12 age bracket in 2001. "Now, the 18th hole comes so fast. I wish there were more holes. I want to keep playing. Not because I love golf more but because I like the intensity of competition more."
And this girl can compete. Possessing a nearly flawless swing that she repeats with the precision of a Swiss watch, the 5-foot-8 Hurst can hit every shot the game demands. Unwilling to let the course play her, Hurst attacks the links with a proactive mindset. She also has a habit of burying putts from as far as 20 feet out with remarkably regularity.
"Her tee shots are magnificent," says Mitchell. "Her management of a course is very thought through. Her focus is terrific. Vicky thinks golf at a very high level. She knows what her next shot is going to be before she's hit the shot that precedes it. She's like a chess player on the course."
Hurst also has the ideal type of memory for a championship golfer -- brief.
"If you have a bad hole, it's not like the next hole doesn't count," she says. "It's one shot. One hole. Play on."
It is precisely that attitude that has Mitchell convinced Hurst's future isn't merely bright, it's blinding. "Players like Vicky don't come along every day," says Mitchell. "We're going to see her name in lights."