Craig Hurlbert spent his summers with his grandfather on his farm in Montana. It was there that he not only was taught the game of golf, but life lessons that have propelled him to the highest places in both business and amateur golf.
Hurlbert’s grandfather, Carl, immigrated from Denmark in 1923. His grandmother, Marie, came over with her family in the early 1900s. They were processed at Ellis Island like so many other European immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Married in 1930, the couple settled in northeastern Montana and began what has now become Wheat Wind Farms in 1940.
Fast forward 36 years and a 13-year-old Craig picked up a golf club for the first time with his Bapa. The two would play in a league twice a week at Big Muddy Golf Club when Craig helped on the farm in the summer.
Now defunct, Big Muddy was a nine-hole sand-green golf course where they hayed the fairways twice a year. This is where Hulbert and his grandfather fell in love with the game of golf.
“He wasn’t a great player,” Hulbert told Golfweek. “But there’s NOBODY that loved the game more than he did…He had such a happy spirit on the golf course. He made it super fun. It wasn’t something that I dreaded to do.”
As he grew older, Hurlbert got better at the game back home in Billings “on real golf courses” where he truly honed his craft.
After playing collegiately for a year at New Mexico State, Craig left collegiate golf to study finance and business at San Diego State. Soon after, he earned a Masters degree in corporate finance at Long Beach State. From there, Hurlbert launched himself into the business world.
This left a gap in his golf game. Hurlbert didn’t really play competitively until he started knocking the ball around with some elite senior amateurs at his home club, Carlton Woods, in Houston, Texas.
“I was right there with them.” he said. “I started saying to myself ‘jeez, maybe my game can stack up.’”
At the time, Hurlbert was in no man’s land. At 53, he was too old to hang with the mid-ams regularly and too young to play in most senior events. He used the time as an advantage. With about two years to reform his game into competitive shape, Hurlbert was ready to take on the senior amateur circuit.
Upon turning 55 in the summer of 2017, he dipped his toe in the water, playing just a few events. In 2018 and ’19 he played nearly 30 events combined. He was consistent throughout with eight top 10s, a quarterfinals trip to the Golfweek Senior Amater Matchplay and a runner-up finish at the 2019 Golfweek Tournament of Champions. Although successful, Hurlbert wasn’t satisfied. It was in November 2019 that he turned to his wife, Stephanie, for help.
Stephanie played professionally on the then-Symetra Tour for a handful of years and understands what it’s like to play under pressure against some of the best in the world.
“I came home at the end of ‘19 and said ‘I’m not going to do this anymore if I can’t win,’” Craig told Stephanie.
She replied with a simple question: What is happening to you under pressure? The question proved to find the flaws as Craig began to be fully honest with himself about his game when under the gun. He worked tirelessly on short putts and worked his driver from a draw to a fade.
“I bet I hit a million five-foot putts between November 15th and January 1st,” Hulbert chuckled. “The draw turned into something I couldn’t control under pressure… So I just worked on hitting a baby fade. I literally wore out a driver I hit so many drivers.”
Already a premier ball striker with plenty of distance, Craig set out into the 2020 season with a refreshed mindset and hunger. Combine that with the lessons he learned as a teenager on the farm with his Bapa, Hurlbert was sure to break out.
Teeing it up at the Old Corkscrew Senior to begin his 2020 season, Hurlbert was able to reap what he sowed during the offseason. He not only won his first senior amateur title, but he did so in a playoff against the 2019 Golfweek Player of the Year, Ken Kinkopf.
Proving it wasn’t a fluke, Hurlbert followed the win up with another win the following week and a third-place finish after that. The start of a great season was supplemented with another win at the Golfweek Senior National Matchplay and the Society of Seniors Founders Cup. With just one finish outside the top 15, Hurlbert’s incredible 2020 season was capped off by being named Golfweek’s Player of the Year.
“It was a process of playing and learning what you didn’t do good enough,” he said. “I had to play in 18-20 events for two years to really understand what was going on inside of my body.”
After such an impressive year, Hurlbert took 2021 off to focus on his business ventures. On December 3, 2021, Local Bounti, a company that he co-founded in 2017 and is the CEO of, went public at the New York Stock Exchange. The company is quite literally centered around his roots. Local Bounti is an agricultural company that produces sustainable and non-GMO greens year round and is headquartered in Hamilton, Montana, just a few hours west of Billings where Hurlbert grew up.
With lessons that started on the banks of the Big Muddy River in Montana at a nine-hole sand-green golf course, Hurlbert has continued his grandfather’s American dream.
Armed with his grandfather’s wisdom, a killer golf game and savvy business senses, Hurlbert looks to defend his team’s title at the 2022 Golfweek Senior Challenge Cup. He captained his team to a win over Gene Elliott’s squad in the 2021 Cup. Facing off against Rusty Strawn’s team this year, Hurlbert will be a playing captain as his team looks to repeat.
“Rusty (Strawn) is a dear friend,” said Hurlbert. “When we play in these tournaments, three, four, five of us all go out to dinner for the couple nights that we’re there… I’m really looking forward to the Cup this December and getting the guys back together.”
The 2022 Golfweek Challenge Cup will be played at Jacaranda Golf Club’s East Course in Plantation, Florida, December 14-16. Captains select players via blind draw to add to the drama of such a fun and competitive week.