Kanawha native coached PGA's Horschel in high school
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Bob Pauley first saw Billy Horschel play golf on a sunny Florida golf course more than a decade ago, he immediately knew the skinny eighth-grader would become an extraordinary player.
Horschel, who is competing at this weekend's Greenbrier Classic, now ranks among the best professional golfers worldwide. He entered the 2013 U.S. Open earlier this spring and tied for fourth place. Today, he stands fifth in the FedEx Cup Standings.
Pauley, a Kanawha County native, coached Horschel throughout high school and watched as the young man blossomed from an amateur into a world-class professional golfer.
Horschel always had heart, commitment and a drive to become the best, said Pauley, who has taught high school athletes for 35 years.
"He has worked for everything he's got," Pauley said.
According to his former coach, Horschel does not come from a wealthy family and, unlike many professional golfers, he didn't learn to play on the manicured lawns of country club golf courses.
"He's a real blue-collar kid," Pauley said. "His parents were just normal folks."
Without fancy lessons or expensive golf tours, Horschel advanced through dedication and hard work, Pauley said. According to Pauley, Horschel was always the first student to arrive at practice and the last to leave.
"It was obvious that he didn't need to be pushed," Pauley said.
That work ethic is incredibly rare, Pauley said. Many high school golfers are reluctant to practice year-round, he said. Horschel, though, devoted hours to one-on-one practices with Pauley to prepare for high school tournaments throughout the year.
"He just wants to do everything perfectly," Pauley said.
All that hard work paid off.
According to Pauley, Horschel took the Bayside High School team by storm. As a freshman, he already had assumed a leadership position, edging out talented seniors who had played on the team for four years, Pauley said.
That take-charge attitude has led some to consider Horschel arrogant, Pauley said. He disagrees, and thinks Horschel simply exudes a confidence that could be mistaken for arrogance.
"At times, you think he's a bad person, but he's not a bad person," Pauley said. "He's just so competitive."
After high school, Horschel was a walk-on for the golf team at the University of Florida, where he became a four-time All-American. "He had a very illustrious college career," Pauley said.
Pauley's mother-in-law, Rosemary Clendenin, said Pauley continued to watch Horschel at Florida and probably knew the young man would soon turn professional.
He did, in 2009.
In April, Horschel won his first tournament on the PGA tour -- the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He also participated in several other tournaments this spring.
Throughout each tournament, Pauley has watched his former student play.
"We're very close," Pauley said. "Every time he plays, I'm right there watching."
The Pauley household always celebrates when Horschel wins, Clendenin said. She compares the celebrations around the Pauley household to fireworks exploding.
Pauley had hoped to travel back to West Virginia to see Horschel play this weekend at the Greenbrier Classic, but he had to postpone the visit. Still, he is planning to watch the tournament from Florida.
Pauley noted that Horschel has built momentum during the past few months. He said Horschel recuperated from a wrist injury sustained a few years ago and that he's begun to work with a new coach. That combination has boosted Horschel's confidence, Pauley said.
He also has proven that he can compete against the best golfers in the world, Pauley said, adding, "He has got all the tools to compete."
Pauley said he believes Horschel is poised to win a major tournament soon.
Reach Laura Reston at email@example.com or 304-348-5112.