PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Defending PGA Professional National Champion David Hutsell will do some "fine-tuning" in the next 10 days before he enters the showcase event for PGA Professionals, June 24-27, at Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, Calif.
Fine tuning is a given for any competitive golfer, especially for Hutsell, a 41-year-old PGA director of instruction at Elkridge Club in Baltimore, whose travel the past few months has been a humbling experience.
"It is a matter of balancing travel and work," said Hutsell, who was the second reigning PGA Professional National Champion to compete in the Japan PGA Championship in May, after competing in Mexico and Puerto Rico. "I think your level of expectations goes up a bit and you put a little pressure on yourself to perform well. I have been working on my game, but need to play a little bit more."
Hutsell will fly to Charlotte, N.C., to visit one of his most trusted mentors, PGA Master Professional Don Trahan.
"I'm taking a golf lesson from Don, and I need the fine-tuning," said Hutsell. "I just have to stick to the basics and not forget how those things have helped me enjoy what success I have had."
Hutsell leads a field of 312 in the National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz, and OMEGA. Bayonet Black Horse is just the second Northern California site to host a PGA Professional National Championship. Hutsell got a preview of Bayonet Black Horse last February during a cold, rainy Media Day trip.
"The weather wasn't cooperating then, and I just got to play Black Horse," said Hutsell. "What I do know is that we have to be ready for all types of weather conditions. It certainly will not be as warm as what I am experiencing in Maryland. The ball may not carry as far. It will take some adjusting."
The 2011 PGA Professional Player of the Year, Hutsell is the third Middle Atlantic PGA member to win a PGA Professional National Championship. He was born in Fort Meade, Md., the youngest of three sons of a former Navy senior chief petty officer. Hutsell grew up on Ruggles Golf Course in Aberdeen, Md., at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. His late father, Max, a Vietnam veteran, was then a retired military personnel and had family playing privileges.
However, baseball called Hutsell first. A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, Hutsell played through high school in Havre de Grace, Md., making a growth spurt and handed the pitching duties. He sustained a right elbow injury his sophomore year, but that didn't deter his extending his time on the diamond. He moved on to compete for University of Maryland Baltimore County and then Towson University, where he played third base, first base and pitched short relief. In 1991, during his junior season, Hutsell's baseball career ended when he underwent "Tommy John" surgery. He was soon looking to golf and turned professional in 1993.
"Golf is little more of a social game than organized baseball, which I had played since I was eight years old," says Hutsell. "The injury was not holding me back, but it was always there. I already was showing interest in golf while I was in college." He joined the grounds crew at Mount Pleasant Golf Course and Bonnie View Golf Course near Baltimore. During this time, he met his future wife, Patty.
In his efforts to make strides in golf, Hutsell arrived at Hilton Head Island, S.C., where he met Trahan.
"Don was quite a boost to me, helping me with my ballstriking, and understanding my strengths and weaknesses," said Hutsell. "Don helped me with what I needed to improve."
Hutsell spent the next eight years learning the golf profession, with positions at three Hilton Head-based facilities – Port Royal Golf Club, Golden Bear Golf Club, and The Golf Club at Indigo Run. From there, he returned to West Friendship, Md., at Willow Springs Golf Course in 1997 as a PGA assistant professional. In 2001, Hutsell worked under PGA Professional Bob Dolan Jr. at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md.
From 2003 to 2005, Hutsell continued to improve. He played the Golden Bear and Hooters Tour and saw his career take a jump when he made the cut in the 2002 Kemper Open, along with the Nationwide Tour's Richmond Open and Virginia Beach Open.
"Once you can get your game in that position, you have to see how you measure up to players of that stature, to figure out where you stand," said Hutsell. "That was a great barometer for me."
In 2003, Hutsell reached the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School. Thanks to a member at Columbia Country Club, Hutsell was able to meet expenses during his short tour career. "I made some money, but not enough to stay out there," he said.
Hutsell found a new niche at Elkridge Club in 2005, and developed his teaching acumen while also competing on weekends in one of the most competitive PGA Sections. Nearly one year later, Hutsell still gets "chills" when he watches a video of his playoff victory last summer at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, where he won the crystal Walter Hagen Cup.
"I am honored to have my name on that trophy," said Hutsell. "As club professionals, we think of ourselves in a different category; we understand what it is that we do day in and day out. Our efforts are growing the game. That is the reason we got into the business. It is a great experience to play in our National Championship, and even greater should you win it."
Hutsell's paycheck comes from a facility that once had the title "The Elkridge Fox Hunting Club." This month, whether he may like it or not, Hutsell is cast as the "fox" in the hunt for another National Championship.
"It is pretty unique for us to be coming to a golf course complex with two great courses that were designed by members of the military," said Hutsell. "I think about my father."