"I spent a few years as a recreational golfer," he said. "I was not playing competitively, I was probably averaging playing once a month. I had multiple-month stretches where I didn't play at all.
"It took awhile to get back into it, and feel like I have all the shots, and feel like I could control the ball. It took six to nine months after I first got out, got back into the game, and it was really hard.
"I was wondering if it would ever come back."
Eventually, it did. He received a new taste of the big tour, making the cut in the 2010 Turning Stone Championship and making about $8,500. After falling short in the "Q School" tournament, he headed to the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour for 2011.
He missed four of the first five cuts, but finished fifth at Wichita, Kan., to break that drought. Four weeks later, he was runner-up at the Chiquita Classic in Maineville, Ohio.
From there, he made 10 of his final 12 cuts, finishing in the top 20 six times. With an 18th-place finish at the Nationwide Tour Championship, he finished with $180,191 in earnings, 25th on that tour - the last spot for the coveted promotion to the big tour.
As far as anybody knows, Hurley is the only military academy graduate to gain full PGA Tour privileges.
"It's been written enough times," he said. "No one's refuted it yet."
This weekend, he has a chance at a big payday at the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. He not only made his sixth cut in 18 tries, but he entered Saturday tied for fifth place at 2 under par.
A big finish could at least double his current season take of $85,072, and give him a needed boost from 189th in the FedExCup rankings.
Nobody had to tell Hurley it wouldn't be easy being a tour rookie. Sometimes it's as hard as ... well, driving a 10,000-ton ship.
"Yes, it is hard. My season had a very slow start," he said. "I'm trying to learn from everything and, hopefully, have a good finish to the season. It's not the immediate success that I was hoping for, but then I guess not a whole lot of people have that.
"I've started to play a lot better in the last couple of weeks, and hopefully I'll be able to take that and keep running into the summer."
After this weekend, Hurley will take his first trip to The Greenbrier resort, driving with wife Heather and sons Will (5 years old) and Jacob (3). They'll make that trip Monday night.
After Hurley checks out Old White TPC a time or two, it will be off to see Toby Keith.
In some ways, his Fourth of July could be very special. In other ways, it will simply be another good night to be an American.
"I think, talking about fighting for freedom, I get that, I suppose you can say," he said. "I also have friends who are doing it. I have some memories of the Fourth of July, from a Navy standpoint, Naval Academy standpoint.
"The thing that is different, certainly when you're in the Navy and you're around all that, every day is the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, whatever you want to call it.
"It's just a part of your life. You really don't need a holiday, or a set of guidelines to make you think about it."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.