The lights simply could not be explained.
Billy Horschel was in a car with his mother and his younger brother that evening, driving down U.S. 1 along the Indian River lagoon in central Florida. The arched lights glowed yellow above the water as if to outline a bridge.
Only, there was no bridge on the horizon.
“I was like that's weird, the Melbourne Causeway looks so nice and then it hit us that we had passed the Melbourne Causeway and there's no other bridge for the next 40 or 50 miles,” Horschel recalled. “So it was just weird that there were six perfect lights that were hovering over the Indian River in a perfect little arch that looked like a bridge.”
Horschel, his mom and brother weren’t the only ones who had seen the lights, either. In fact, so many people called the police to inquire about them that Florida Today ran an article the following day.
“I can't remember if they were still there when we passed them and then they disappeared or they disappeared when we were driving by,” Horschel said. “But the newspaper ran a story there were like mysterious lights on Melbourne Beach-type of deal.
“I can't remember how they phrased it but a lot of people called in.”
We’re talking UFOs here, folks. At least that’s what many people thought — and in retrospect, Horschel agrees.
“I believed in UFOs before that but that sort of sparked my interest,” he explained. “I just think that to think we're the only people in this universe that are alive or living or anything like that is sort of naive in my opinion.”
Horschel is in good company. In fact, an article earlier this year noted that Florida ranks second to California in sightings, according to the National UFO Reporting Center in Davenport, Washington.
Horschel, who will defend his AT&T Byron Nelson title this week, said he first became interested in the UFO phenomenon when he was a teenager.
The 2014 FedExCup champion loves to watch shows about the paranormal on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. His grandfather and an uncle worked at NASA, too, which might have fanned the flame.
“I'm not big on reading books, but I'll sit there in front of the TV and watch stuff like that all the time, or anything to deal with history,” he said. “So I don't know why I believe, but obviously watching those shows (made me think more about it).”
Horschel is also well-acquainted with the conspiracy theories about a potential sighting in Roswell, New Mexico, back in 1947. The United States military first reported it was a weather balloon that crashed, but reversed course in the 1990s and said it was a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul.
Others aren’t so sure, though, insisting there was a cover-up. The local newspaper ran a story on July 8, 1947, with the headline: RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region. The legend continues to this day, and Horschel is intrigued.
“I'm sort of into that era, 1951, and all that secretive stuff,” Horschel said. “I like knowing stuff, stuff that people don't know about or people keep hidden-type deal.”
Horschel also thinks the Bigfoot phenomenon might be more than just folklore. But he acknowledges that of the two — UFOs or Sasquatch — having a giant hairy ape walking upright in the forest might be the least believable.
“But when you think about every day new species and new things are being discovered in this world it sort of makes you think is this Bigfoot thing really real,” he said. “… So who knows?”
Horschel said few of his peers know he believes in UFOs and Bigfoot. He’s prepared for the teasing that may follow this article — but at the same time, he knows he’s not alone in his beliefs.
“Millions of people have seen UFOs and have video recordings,” Horschel said. “And when you think about pilots — these guys are in the skies hours and hours and they know what a plane is and they know stuff and when they talk about their experiences and what they've seen and they can't justify what they've seen, it sort of makes you think a little bit.”
It does, indeed.