By Dave Krider
Vicky Hurst has been named the 2007 Rolex Junior Player of the Year by the American Junior Golf Association, but don't be surprised to see her on the LPGA tour in the near future.
Hurst told MaxPreps that she had made the Rolex honor a major goal earlier this year.
"It's great," she exclaimed. "There are so many great players who have won Player of the Year and now are on the (LPGA) Tour. I always had thought about it, but it feels different now that I have won it. All the hard work - I'm really proud of myself."
A senior at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Fla., Hurst won three AJGA tournaments this past summer and finished second in three others. She also made the Canon Cup East Team and PING Junior Solheim Cup U.S. Team. In addition, she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur and came close to making the cut at the LPGA's Ginn Open.
Her 2007 victories came in the Birks & Mayors Junior Championship, the McDonald's Betsy Rawls Girls Championship and the PING Invitational. She placed second in the Orange Bowl International Junior, Thunderbird International Junior and tied for second in the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
In 33 rounds of stroke-play competition, the 5-8 Hurst averaged 72.6 per 18 holes. She shot 72 or better 15 times, including a sparkling 6-under-par 66 during the Birks & Mayors Junior Championship.
Hurst is not even close to choosing a college and that's probably because she has hopes of turning pro after graduation this spring. "It will be determined on how I play between November and March," she told MaxPreps. "I might go on the Futures Tour. The top five would be put on the big tour the next year."
Hurst currently is working with Mike Bender, Timacuan Country Club pro in Orlando, Fla., and he is a strong believer that she can make it as a teenager. "Her amateur career would support that decision," he believes. "She hits it farther than the average LPGA player - 255 to 260 yards. The LPGA average is around 240 yards. There are very few people I would say that about (that she can make the LPGA Tour as a teen). I say that with no hesitation. I think she is going to have a phenomenal career. She has everything it takes to succeed on the Tour."
Bender first worked with Hurst when she was 10 years old. "This little girl comes out with a Ben Hogan hat," he recalled. "She was very small for her age, but she had a great flow in her golf swing and a knack for golf. I knew she was going to be really, really good."
Having just recently reconnected with Hurst, Bender adds, "She has great control over her body and can make changes easily. She has a good disposition and is very level-headed."
However, when he started working with her this time, he saw some immediate flaws that had to be corrected. He explained, "She had gotten very upright and her down swing was very steep. She was coming down vertically. Her swing was going to the left and she was hitting glancing blows with a lot of spin. We've also worked quite a bit with her wedge game.
"We've really gotten her hands to be more flat. Her back swing is slower and the path of her hands is more on a plane. She has done a fantastic job. If I could show you (her rapid improvement), it would blow you away."
Golf definitely is in Hurst's blood. In fact, she almost was born on a golf course. Her mother, Koko, who has helped form her game from the beginning, was on a course at Andrews Air Force Base when her water broke. Two hours later Vicky was born.
Her grandfather, Al Hurst, played a round of golf at age 93 and scheduled a tee time for the next day, but died in his sleep that night. Her father, Joe, was hitting golf balls 30 minutes before he had a stroke. He had been in good health, but died at the age of 61. Vicky also has a sister, Kelly, who plays golf for the University of Florida.
Hurst started playing golf at age eight and began getting into the competitive side at age 11. "I guess it came kind of naturally," she conceded. "It takes a lot of patience. You're going to hit bad shots, no matter who you are. You have to stay calm."
The teenage phenom adds, "My long game is the best and always has been. Putting - the short game - takes a lot of practice. It's really frustrating when you stand over a four-foot putt and miss it."
Being a natural athlete, Hurst played several other sports as she grew up. She was a midfielder in soccer for five years, played guard in basketball one year and played tennis for three years. She also dabbled in swimming and taekwondo.
Hurst tasted her first golf tournament victory at age 11 and won her first AJGA major - the Nike Junior at Fort Myers, Fla. - when she was 15. "It felt great because the AJGA is such a huge deal," she said.
Because her school doesn't have a girls golf team, Hurst plays on the boys team during the regular season, then competes in the girls division when the state tournament begins. She played No. 1 on the boys team as a sophomore, junior and senior.
As a sophomore she tied talented Morgan Pressel for Class 1A medalist honors at 10-under-par, but lost a two-hole playoff. During her junior year, she shot 9-under-par to capture sole medalist honors. "It was really great," she said. "My team came out to support me and I played really well the last day."
This year she averaged 37.4 strokes per nine holes. Last week she competed in her final Florida Class 1A state tournament and lost a heartbreaker. Plantation American Heritage freshman Kyle Roig carded a two-day total of 70-72-142 - two under par - while Hurst had to settle for second place with 71-72-143.
Playing against boys made her even more determined, she hinted. "I made sure that I played my best and they would have to also (play their best) to beat me," she laughed.
Her prep coach, Steve Henderson, says that his players treat her "just as another member of the team - almost like a captain. She is very well respected by all the boys who play against her and those on our team. Her name is so big that a lot of players and parents know who she is. It's a respect thing and a challenge to play against her. We went to a lot of country clubs and a lot of times big galleries followed her around.
"She is a hard worker and always the last one to leave. That's where a lot of respect comes from. For being in the spotlight, she is one in a million. She doesn't have a big head and doesn't see herself being any different than anybody else."
Of course, Hurst has made an even bigger name for herself outside of the high school scene. The summer prior to her junior year she won the Mizuno Junior in Georgia and the Mirasol Junior in Florida.
She also suffered her biggest disappointment when she lost the title game of the U.S. Girls Championships in North Carolina in a one-hole playoff against Jenny Shin. Still, she discovered a silver lining. She stressed, "I learned so much. I realized how my emotions act. It was physically and mentally draining. I learned how to manage it."
The Florida teenager long ago traded her Ben Hogan hat for a Payne Stewart model. "They're really cool and different," she explained. "I like his game and his demeanor on the golf course. He is a quality person and player."
It probably won't be long before followers of the LPGA Tour will be describing Vicky Hurst in the same glowing terms.