Golf Q&A: Texas Tech’s Hurly Long and Greg Sands
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Texas Tech senior Hurly Long followed up setting the course record at Pebble Beach last Saturday by claiming the individual Carmel Cup title the following day.
Long, originally from Mannheim, Germany, shot three rounds under 70 over the weekend — including his record-setting 61 — to set a new Texas Tech three-round scoring record. It did not come easy, though. Long was tied with Oklahoma State junior Hayden Wood after 54 holes at 19-under-par before taking the title on the first playoff hole.
We got the chance to catch up with Long and Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands about the experience at Pebble Beach.
Texas Tech golfer Hurly Long
1. You grew up in Germany as the son of a golf professional. You had an extensive junior golf background including participating as a member of the German Junior National Team. What led you to come to the United States to go to school and play college golf? You transferred from Oregon to Texas Tech after your freshman year. How does a young man from Germany adapt to the plains of Texas?
I had decided at a very young age to come to college. My dreams of playing on a college golf team started when I was about 6 years old. It became very real to me, however, when I was about 14 or 15. That is when I knew for sure that I was going to college and wanted to prove myself.
Being half-American and having grown up around the military made the switch to suddenly live in the United States, let alone Texas, a lot easier. There are certainly a lot of cultural differences, but I love both of my homes.
2. Talk about this past summer's schedule, and what did you focus on in order to hopefully take your game to the next level for the coming school season?
I enjoyed a nice summer of getting better while also getting to spend some quality time with my family. I think it is important to sometimes recharge your engines, and I was able to do that while also getting better.
Over the course of the summer, I had a lot of solid finishes and moved up quite considerably in the world rankings. My focus has been to gradually improve certain parts of my ball striking and definitely putting, but the main focus has been to improve my mental game. I think the power of the mind is everyone's biggest asset, and I seek to use that power to the best of my abilities.
3. Obviously, your performance in the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach is something you will not soon forget. Winning the tournament in extra holes, three rounds under 70, and setting the competitive course record at one of the most famous courses in the world. Has it sunk in yet how three days of golf in California has changed your life forever? Your course record round has been highlighted across the country and around the world by the golf media. Have you had any fun calls, notes, etc., from around the world of golf?
It has definitely taken some time for me to realize what I accomplished shooting that 61. I have told everyone that asks me that it is a huge honor and very humbling. To make history like that is something that I am very proud of. Also, that would not have been possible if it was not for great people like Fin Ewing who hosts us out there every year; I owe him much gratitude.
But I do want to say that no score I ever shoot will change me as a person or the way I perceive life. Has this impacted my life in a positive way? Yes, certainly so, but it has not changed me as a person, and therefore I would not say that is has changed my life.
Regarding people who have reached out to me: Yes, there have been so many people who have been supportive, and I appreciate every message, call or comment I get from people. It was very cool, however, to see a guy like Carson Daly post about my round, I'll definitely admit that.
4. Looking back on the tournament and specifically the 11-under-par 61, did you have any sense heading to California that this might be a really good week? Did you do anything different in your preparation?
Coming into the week, I was confident about my game, having struck the ball extremely well over the summer. I wanted to stick to my recipe of success and not change that just because I was back in college. I was going to stick to my game plan, and I knew if I was able to do that, that I would play well.
I had just gotten a new putter a week prior, and that ended up being hugely important as well. But I want to emphasize the fact that this was a mental win for me. I attribute the success to many things, but the sort of breakthrough I underwent that week was a result of my mental preparation. I have integrated what I call mental IQ sessions into my daily routines, and it paid off right away, which was very pleasing.
Texas Tech golfer Hurly Long claimed the individual Carmel Cup title.
5. Looking back at the round, you had 10 birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey. Were you aware as you played the round what was happening? At any point during the round did you find out that you were closing in on the course record?
I did know that I was playing really well, but I was in a great frame of mind and just looked forward to every hole and the challenge of keeping up the birdies. I knew my wedge game and especially the putter were hot, so I knew that I had a lot of chances coming.
The course record deal became apparent when two caddies whispered behind me, arguing whether it was 61 or 62. I assumed 61 and played aggressively accordingly.
6. You made birdie on No. 18 to set the record. Take us through the hole and how you tried to control your emotions. What was your first thought when your final birdie putt went in?
18 was the hardest battle all day, and I knew it would be regardless of whether I was 10-under or 2-over. It is not a hole that suits my eye at all. If there is no room to really bail out, I will always hit a low ball, and the majority of the time it will be a low fade.
Now, most people know 18 and understand that a low fade is not exactly what you are looking for, rather a high draw. But I am very confident in my ability to hit the ball into any fairway so wanting to break the course record there was no way I was not hitting driver.
The second shot had to end up around the green so I was able to make eagle. I wanted to play the odds, however, and stuck to my guns and decided to hit a low drive right at the tree. That gave me quite a bit of room left and right in case I missed it.
I ended up hitting it right through the tree, which was a nice personal achievement and put me in a good position. However, I still had 235 yards to the hole. I figured, there was almost no way for me to get the ball close with the pin being tucked behind the right bunker, so I decided I was going to hole a bunker shot for eagle.
I am a very good sand player, so the intention was to hit it in the bunker and leave myself a pretty simple and very makeable shot. I ended up hitting it right at the bunker but a yard short of it with a 4 iron. I was pleased with the result, though, because even that gave me a good shot at holing it as I knew it would run out from there and pass the cup.
The whole time my intention was to make eagle, and so I played a pretty aggressive shot that missed the cup by about half-foot left and rolled out to 11 feet. When I walked up there, I thought, "well, a tap-in birdie would have been nice, too" and kind of laughed.
I treated the putt like any other that day. I had been putting well, so I was not going to change anything and fortunately enough it was dead center, allowing me to fist pump about a foot before the ball entered the cup. A really nice feeling to finish off such a strong round with a clutch putt.
7. Pebble Beach is considered a very difficult shot-making course due to the usual windy conditions as well tight landing areas and length of the course. Was there any specific part of your game which was the key to the round? Was there any one shot that you specifically remember from the round?
While there are some long holes from 8-10, you do have a lot of wedge opportunities. I took driver on holes where others did not and consequently had more wedges than others.
My wedges and putter were great all week and especially the second round. That was the real key. Most of my 10 birdies came from around 10 feet after a good wedge shot. There were a lot of signature shots that round, but holing it from 45 feet on 17 to get me to 10-under was probably the coolest of them all. Holing a bunker shot on 6 for eagle is up there, though, as well.
8. You shoot 61 and have the lead in a major college event after two rounds, but still have another 18 holes to play. What was it like as you approached the final round? You fire 67 in the final round and head to an individual playoff; did you ever think the tournament would end? Walk us through the playoff hole.
I was very happy getting in to the playoff, honestly. The last day was a battle all day with Hayden (Wood), and I knew he had the advantage on 18 because he hits it long and straight. I laid up so I had to rely on my wedge game and putting.
I made a 15-footer to get into the playoff, so that was very gratifying. For some reason, I knew I had the advantage in the playoff. I had played the first few holes well all week and was not afraid of winning.
Hayden hit his approach over the green on 1, and I knew that would be a tough up-and-down. I hit my tee shot down the middle but ended up in a divot, which made things a little bit more complicated, but ultimately the goal was to get it on the front of the green, and I was able to do that.
He almost made a really difficult putt and credit to him, I thought it was in. But after he missed, I had two putts to win and did just that.
Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands
Greg Sands has been the head golf coach at Texas Tech for 16 seasons.
1. As you watched Hurly play in the second round, at what point did you think this might a special day?
When he holed out for eagle on 6, I thought that it may be a special day for him!
2. When did you really start thinking about the course record?
I was so focused on coaching another kid, that I didn't start thinking about it until I heard he made a long putt on hole No. 17.
3. Did he find out on the course what the record was and, if yes, from who?
Apparently, his caddie brought it up to him at some point on the course. I think the caddie told him that 61 was the record, which may have made him stay aggressive even though 62 was the record.
4. Talk about how Hurly managed his emotions, not only in his record-breaking round but also through his playoff victory.
Luckily, Hurly had time to eat and go hit some balls before the playoff. Hurly had been doing some great things mentally, so I trusted him to do it on his own. I didn't interfere with his thought process and managing his emotions. Instead, I focused on making sure he knew how proud I was of his achievement.
5. As a coach, how do you use this one week's performance as a teaching opportunity for the rest of your team?
We had challenged our guys to go low the night before and be courageous to shoot as many under-par as possible. After Hurly shot his 61, we asked him to share some of his thoughts on how he managed his emotions down the stretch so that others may learn how to do the same.
We feel this could really be a big breakthrough for him and our team to shoot low numbers and not be satisfied with two- to three-under when they have great days.
6. Finally, describe Hurly in one word.
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