By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
HERSHEY, Pa. - David Hutsell of Baltimore, Md., will be the first to declare that good things happen to those who wait and can learn from heartbreak. A decade ago in Sunriver, Ore., Hutsell lost a playoff for a berth in the PGA Championship.
On Wednesday afternoon at Hershey Country Club, locked in the biggest playoff of his professional career in the 44th PGA Professional National Championship, Hutsell drew upon that experience in the great Northwest, caught a break and went on to capture his first national title.
The 40-year-old PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore rolled home an eight-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, the par-4 17th that he had birdied one hour earlier in regulation, defeating Faber Jamerson of Appomattox, Va., and Scott Erdmann of Tigard, Ore., who had bowed out of the playoff one hole earlier. The trio had battled on a sunny, gusty day to an 11-under-par 274 total after regulation in the showcase event for PGA Professionals presented by Club Car and Mercedes-Benz.
"It's my biggest accomplishment in golf by far," said Hutsell, a former college baseball player who had been a member of a golf course maintenance crew before his college, Towson University, formed a golf team. "Golf came to me late in life. To see where I started, and to where I am now, you could not have imagined it 15 years ago. Not a chance."
Hutsell, who led the field in greens in regulation (60 of 72), closed with a 3-under-par 68, which featured four birdies and an eagle to offset two bogeys. He saved par on the 18th hole to open the playoff by chipping from back of the green to within three feet. Erdmann, the third-round leader, and a PGA assistant professional at Oswego Lake Country Club in Lake Oswego, Ore., posted a 72, but dropped out of the playoff after failing to get up and down from a front greenside bunker for par.
"I started out really slow and was fighting myself after bogeying the first few holes," said Erdmann. "I was trying to tell myself to be patient. It was great to get into the experience, to get into the playoff. It was a tough bunker shot and just didn't nip it well."
Jamerson, a PGA general manager at Falling River Country Club in Appomattox, finished with a 70, and nearly curled in a 35-foot birdie putt at 18 to win in regulation. He had a 25-footer in the playoff for a second chance to victory that didn't reach the hole.
Danny Balin of Greenwich, Conn., 29, who finished fourth for the second consecutive year, delivered the finest performance of his career, but it was all too late. Balin turned in a sizzling course record, 8-under-par at 276.
"It was a dream day, and I really can't complain knowing that I played this well and still will be going to the PGA Championship," said Balin, the PGA assistant professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, whose gem of a round featured an eagle and six birdies. He broke the course mark of 64, and nearly dropped a 30-footer on the 18th green.
Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Ariz., Brad Lardon of College Station, Texas, and Robert McClellan of Butler, Pa., were in a group at 278, and defending Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., who ended with a 72, led a group of three at 279.
Hutsell earned $75,000 from a $550,000 total purse and became the third Middle Atlantic PGA Section Professional to capture the National Championship, following friends Wayne DeFrancesco of Columbia, Md., who triumphed in 2001 and Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., who won in 2007 - both titles coming at Crosswater Club in Sunriver.
"I got an email from Chip this morning," said Hutsell, breaking into a big grin. "We played each other in the Section Match Play Championship in April, and he beat me. He said, 'Go out and win this thing, so I can say I beat the National Champion.' Playing in this Championship, you can learn so much about what you need to work on.
"There were a lot of guys struggling out there, and I've been there before with a lot on the line. This golf course wasn't an easy one. When I was in that playoff in 2001, I didn't have my game on Sunday. I didn't make it. You kind of take those experiences and learn from them."
Jamerson saw his opportunity to extend the playoff fade when his tee shot on the 17th hole came to rest at the base of a tree.
"I've been in the PGA program for seven years, and the whole time I wanted to play in the PNC and it's been a goal of mine to play here, to have the opportunity to play in the PGA Championship," said Jamerson. "To earn a spot on the PGA Cup Team, and have a chance to win this week was great. I accomplished all of those things.
"I got a bad break in the playoff, but I hit it there. The ball was four inches from the trunk of the tree and I hit it left-handed, and then faced a 140-yard approach. I tugged it and hit it into no-man's land."
Jamerson pitched from the back of the green in four, then two-putted for double bogey.
Hutsell, who had seen Jamerson's struggles, hit a wedge from the left rough after catching a good lie and hit his wedge approach to eight feet. He then rolled in the decisive birdie putt.
"Faber got an unfortunate break on 17," said Hutsell. "He's a great player and those things will happen. We have played a little golf together over the years and you hate to see that happen to anybody. I got a good break. He has better eyes than me and saw my ball kick out of the grass."
The low 20 scorers advanced to the 93rd PGA Championship, Aug. 8-14, at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.
Hutsell, Jamerson and Erdmann also earned their berths on the U.S. PGA Cup Team, with eight berths decided Wednesday and the remaining two spots -- the result of a two-year points system -- determined after the PGA Championship. The 25th PGA Cup, the Ryder Cup for the club professional against a similar 10-member team from Great Britain & Ireland, is Sept. 16-18, at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif.
The PGA Professional National Championship is supported by Titleist/FootJoy, Callaway Golf, Nike Golf, TaylorMade-adidas golf/Ashworth and the PGA Tour.