Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel capped the best three weeks of his young career – and life – last month when he won the 2014 Tour Championship, brought home a total of $11.44 million by clinching the 2014 FedExCup title and, most importantly, was in the delivery room when his wife gave birth to their first child.
Playing the three best weeks of golf as a professional, Horschel first pocketed $2.03 million by winning the 2014 BMW Championship and finishing second in the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship. Adding his Tour crown and FedExCup bonus, Horschel boosted his payday to $13.47 million in a three-week span and $14.8 million for the PGA Tour season.
Despite his hot streak, Horschel was not chosen to play for the United States in the 2014 Ryder Cup due to his success occurring too late in the process. Instead, he was able to spend more time at home at his recently-expanded family.
Two days after Horschel set up his family for life, his wife and fellow former Florida golfer, Brittany Horschel, gave birth to baby Skyler on Sept. 16.
Quite a month, huh?
OnlyGators.com got a unique opportunity to speak with Horschel this week as he prepares for the 2014-15 golf season. One of the hottest names in the sport, Horschel was not an easy get considering all of the media requests following the end of the 2013-14 season. Nevertheless, the PGA Tour was more than accommodating.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start with what’s important: how are the wife and baby?
BILLY HORSCHEL: “Skyler and Brittany are doing really great. They’re both healthy. Brittany is loving being a mom. She’s doing a heck of a job. We’ve been very blessed in the sense that Skyler has been a very, very easy baby. She sleeps well, doesn’t fuss a lot. If you could sort draw up the ideal baby – in the way for her to act for the parents to not go crazy – in my opinion, this would be it. We’ve been very blessed and very lucky.”
AS: I noticed you have already been outfitting her with plenty of Florida gear.
BH: “Oh yeah, you got to start her off early. She’s got to know that she’s a Gator and everyone else knows that she’s a Gator. So yeah, that’s been fun.”
— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) October 4, 2014
AS: There are a lot of golfers who will occasionally reference their schools while on the course, maybe with a logo towel, certain color hat or something of the sort. You have gone above and beyond to make Florida and the Gators a big part of your tour persona. How strong is your connection to the school and program?
BH: “I’ve been a Gator fan my whole life. I was lucky enough that Buddy Alexander gave me a scholarship to come play there. It was my dream school. I relished it. I loved my four years there, and I learned a lot from Buddy. He taught me a lot about the game and a lot about life, too.
“I love being a part of the Gator Nation. We’re such a big family. Everyone, it doesn’t matter where I go around this world, it’s funny how I see someone will come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m a UF alumni, I graduated in ’75 or ’84 or whatever.’ I’ll be over in Asia in China in a couple weeks, and I’ll probably see five or 10 Gator fans out there on a daily basis. It’s pretty cool. Like they say, ‘Gator Nation is everywhere.’ It truly is. I love representing the Gator Nation. It’s a big-time family, and I’m going to support them and show them my pride and how much I care for them.”
AS: Jumping back to last season and your tremendous success… What is it that clicked for you in late August and throughout September? Was it as simple as everything coming together or did you change your approach in some areas?
BH: “It was a couple things. I just had to be a little bit easier on myself. My game was in the right place it needed to be; I just wasn’t getting the results on the golf course. That was me being a little bit too hard on myself. I’m a perfectionist; I want perfection out of myself and I wasn’t getting it, so I was being a little too hard on myself. I just needed to be a little bit easier.
“At the same time, my teacher Todd Anderson, he saw something in my putting with my grip that needed to be changed a little bit. We changed that and right away I just started making putts. The speed got a lot better and I was able to match up the speed and the line and they started falling. When that happens, your confidence keeps growing and you’re off to the races from there.”
AS: You ended the season by notching career milestones that seasoned PGA Tour professionals only dream about achieving. Nevertheless, you were left off the Ryder Cup team as it was finalized weeks before you really hit your stride. Was that a bittersweet feeling for you?
BH: “Nah, I mean, I would have loved to have been on the Ryder Cup team representing the United States of America. But when they picked the team after the Deutsche Bank, the last three guys, I never gave it another thought, and I could care less about it at that time because I didn’t get picked and I was over it. It wasn’t something I was going to dwell on, especially now being the FedExCup champion and everything. People wanted to talk a lot about me and how I should be on the team and this and that. That was nice that everyone thought I should be on the team, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it because I was OK with it. If everyone else wanted to make a big deal, that’s for them, but that’s not for me.”
AS: What do you think about the Ryder Cup selection process, though, and do you think it should be altered moving forward ahead of 2016 and beyond?
BH: “You know, they need to change it, and I think hopefully the PGA of America reaches out to the right people. I know they got a task force now with players, this and that, but I think they need to understand that they don’t run a tour, they run a tournament. They oversee all the PGA professionals in the country and they do a heck of a job with that, but they don’t interact with the PGA Tour players on a daily basis like the PGA Tour does. And so they need, I think in my opinion, to reach out to the tour so they can understand how the players think and everything and be a little bit more involved in that.”
AS: Have you had an opportunity to speak with new Gators golf coach J.C. Deacon?
BH: “J.C. and I have talked on the phone and through text messages since he got the job. We finally met this weekend when I was over in Gainesville for the game. I met him on Saturday. He’s a great guy. He’s got a lot of energy for the program. He’s got a lot of big ideas and is expecting big things from the players that come in there. It was bittersweet to see Buddy retire because he’s meant so much for me, but I’m happy that J.C. has this passion for the University of Florida golf program. I see big things for him in the future; I like him a lot.”
AS: You mentioned that Buddy Alexander, who just retired, had a big impact on you, but was there one thing in particular that really helped you develop whether as a man or a professional golfer?
BH: “You know what? There are so many things. I could go on and on for things that Buddy taught me. I think more or less he’s been… When you go off to college, you’re about 18 years old, so you’re still a young adult and you spend 4-5 years there. So between the ages of 18-22, you’re a young adult and you’re still learning about yourself and you’re still learning about life and everything. Buddy was there for all of us, not just myself, but all the players on the team. For me, it was like he was a second father to me. He was there, allowed us to make mistakes but corrected us and always showed us the right way that things should be done. My dad’s great. My dad passed me on to Buddy Alexander, who was a great role model and another father figure that showed me the right things to do in life.”
AS: Thanks for the time, Billy.
BH: “No problem, man. You do great stuff there; I read it all the time.”