Defending champ Hutsell previews site of 45th PGA Professional National Championship

SEASIDE, Calif. — It’s been nearly eight months now, and David Hutsell still gets “chills” when he watches a video of his victory last summer in the PGA Professional National Championship. He has catalogued in his memory segments of that video, the scenes of him hoisting the crystal Walter Hagen Cup and being honored by a throng of home club members.

Those images were replayed again Monday as Hutsell, the reigning PGA Professional Player of the Year was the featured guest at Media Day for the 45th PGA Professional National Championship at Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, Calif.

“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 will be among a 312-player field in the PGA Professional National Championship, June 24-27, making its second appearance in Northern California, and first since 1970 when Rex Baxter triumphed at Sunol Valley Country Club in Sunol, Calif., 32 miles southeast of San Francisco.

The 41-year-old Hutsell, whose college baseball career ended due to an elbow injury in 1991, transformed himself into a competitive professional golfer. He said the first defining point of his drive for improvement occurred when he made the cut in the 2002 Kemper Open.

“Once you can get your game in that position, you can figure out where you stand,” he said. “That was a great barometer for me.”

Hutsell said that his National Championship playoff victory last June at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, was “a life-changing experience.” The PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore said club members, many he has never before met, continue to offer congratulations. Such is the life of a celebrity host professional.

“My younger brother, Chip, called me and said, ‘Did you know that you now have a Wikipedia page?’ ” Hutsell recalled with a big grin. “He then said, ‘So, what’s next?’ “

Over the next several months, Hutsell will take advantage of two among the six Tour exemptions this season that he earned from last year’s National Championship. He will compete in the Mayakoba Classic, Feb. 23-26, in Mexico, and March 8-11, in the Puerto Rico Open. He also accepted a special invitation for May 10-13, to compete in the Japan PGA Championship. He will join 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan as the only two PGA club professionals to compete in the Japan PGA’s showcase event.

The 45th PGA Professional National Championship, presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA, offers a total purse of $550,000. The National Championship is televised live by Golf Channel.

Hutsell was able to get in one practice round Sunday on the Black Horse layout before the fickle February weather on the Monterey Peninsula played through Monday morning. Temperatures plateaued in the high 40s, while steady wind and rain dampened play on a complex ranked No. 21 by Golf Digest in its 2012 roster of “America’s Toughest Golf Courses.” Of the top 25 courses in the list, Bayonet and Black Horse are one of eight sites never to have hosted a major championship.

“We have our major coming up in June, though,” said Hutsell. “We are facing two very challenging courses. The green complexes on Black Horse, I found, are somewhat severe, and you have to keep the ball below the hole. I will be coming back three days ahead of the Championship trying to get adjusted to both courses.”

Bayonet and Black Horse PGA Head Professional Pat Jones teamed with Hutsell at Media Day along with PGA of America Vice President Ted Bishop, the chairman of the Championship, along with Northern California PGA President Len Dumas.

“As much as we appreciate notoriety for being among the most difficult courses in the country, it is a case of ‘over-hype,’ ” said Jones, who joined the Bayonet and Black Horse staff in 2010. “I prefer to call it tournament golf. We have hosted a variety of events, from a U.S. Open qualifier, to a championship for The First Tee.”

Said Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Course Superintendent Ryan VerNess, a past employee at such venues as Spyglass Hill, “When you are on the Monterey Peninsula, with courses like Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, you expect to get that championship mentality.”

This year marks the 11th time that The PGA of America’s showcase event for PGA Professionals will be contested in California, and first since 1996. Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses, named in honor of two U.S. Army divisions, occupy property that was once part of the former Fort Ord military base near Seaside, Calif. The courses earned national recognition in 2010 when they hosted the Second Stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School and a U.S. Open qualifying event.

“It is pretty unique for us to be coming to a golf course complex of two great courses that were designed by members of the military,” said Hutsell. “I think right away about my late father, Max, a former senior chief petty officer in the Navy. I grew up on Ruggles Golf Course in Aberdeen, Md., at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. My dad being a retired military gave us playing privileges. He introduced me to the game.”

This June, Hutsell will be back in the hunt and among 312 PGA Professionals chasing a Championship on a new and demanding “Proving Ground.”

About the PGA Professional National Championship
Begun in 1968, The PGA Professional National Championship provides additional playing opportunities for PGA Professionals. In over four decades, it has become the showcase event for PGA Professionals, featuring some of the finest players in the Association. The Championship presents a 312-player field representing 41 PGA Sections competing at the peak of their games, and with its 20 top finishers earning a berth in the PGA Championship.

The PGA Professional National Championship has been conducted in 15 states in its previous 44 years: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf. 

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