Hutsell savors new friends, culture, golf in 80th Japan PGA Championship

David Hutsell has the easy-going temperament that one needs to shake off any obstacle in your path. It is one reason why the PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore went on to win a PGA Professional National Championship last summer.

His ability to turn a gale into a soft breeze was his salvation May 8-14, as he made a whirlwind round trip to compete in the 80th Japan PGA Nissin Cup Noodles Cup.

“Without question, it was an honor to represent The PGA of America, a fantastic experience, and I would love to qualify again,” said Hutsell, who earned the trip as a special exemption for capturing the 2011 National Championship at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club. “I know that I will be better prepared should I get the chance.”

Hutsell’s first trip to Asia started with a late rush after he noticed online that he must secure an “entertainer’s visa” from the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. That delay prevented him from taking his original flight and savor two days of practice. He was accompanied by his caddie, John Bowes, a U.S. Navy helicopter engineer from Lakehurst, N.J. Together, they boarded a plane for one leg to JFK Airport in New York, and then a non-stop leg to Narita Airport outside Tokyo. The total 14 hours in the air and nearly three hours by car to a hotel was draining.

Hutsell, 41, was the second reigning PGA Professional National Champion and Middle Atlantic PGA member to compete in the Japan PGA Championship, following 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., who competed in the 2008 Japan PGA Championship.

The 2011 PGA Professional Player of the Year, Hutsell posted a first-round 73 and a disappointing 86 to easily miss the 36-hole cut. When pressed about what went haywire, Hutsell said that his difficulties centered on being unsure about the yardages, the second-day’s heavy wind and having “about as bad a day hitting the ball on Day 2 as you could imagine. I don’t like making excuses.”

Japan’s Toru Taniguchi captured the Championship, finishing 4-under-par, and having to make a difficult two putts for par on 18 for a one-stroke victory. Hutsell said Karasuyamajo Country Club – which he learned to roll off his tongue with no difficulty – “showed its teeth on the weekend. It was not only a beautiful course but also a strong test, and immaculately maintained.”

Hutsell’s caddie, Bowes, is a veteran of 42 years’ service with the U.S. Navy. He is the lead electronic engineer in the NH60R Helicopter Program for the Naval Air Systems Command in Lakehurst, N.J., and is scheduled to retire this August. Bowes had never met Hutsell until last June, when he agreed to caddie in the PGA Professional National Championship.

“We worked well together, and we have now been through quite a lot together,” said Hutsell. “I have to say that the hospitality John and I have received was first class. John mentioned to me on several occasions that he felt that the Japanese people were ‘the friendliest people he has ever met.’ I would underscore that, and just sightseeing for a few hours Monday before we went to the airport confirmed that.”

Hutsell preceded a sightseeing tour by getting a surprise invitation from Japan PGA Chairman Shizuo Mori to be seated on the 18th green during the award ceremony.

Hutsell and Bowes traveled to Tokyo and stayed downtown at the Imperial Hotel for their final night in Japan. The Imperial Hotel, the largest in which Hutsell had ever been a guest, covered a city block. That night, Hutsell and Bowes were dinner guests with representatives attending the Asia-Oceania Golf Summit. He sat with golf industry representatives from China, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan.

“They met to discuss many of the same issues that we have in the States,” said Hutsell. “They talked about the future of golf in that part of the world. They are concerned about rounds played, access, costs of play in the economy, and how they can better work together. There was great conversation regarding the future of our great game. It makes you realize that the same concerns are being addressed no matter what part of the world you may live in.”

Hutsell’s whirlwind three-hour sightseeing tour Monday in Tokyo included one of the largest fish markets in the world, where he sampled foods and watched in awe as one vendor handled a large knife like an artist to dissect a large tuna. The tour also featured Tokyo Harbor and entrance to Sensogi Temple in Asakusa.

Tokyo’s oldest temple, completed in A.D. 645, is devoted to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy. Throughout their history, temple structures were repeatedly destroyed by natural disasters, fires, and most recently in World War II air raids. The eastern gate, built in 1618, was the only structure to survive.

“It was a great experience to be part of the visitors to the temple and follow the customs before entering,” said Hutsell, who said that he was taken aback by the city of Tokyo.

“I was amazed by how clean the city streets were,” he said. “You did not see a single piece of trash anywhere, and even with the large amount of traffic, we never heard a single horn beep. We also only saw one police car all day. It is evidence of their culture and how much honor and respect for others plays a major role.”

Hutsell now will prepare to defend his National Championship, June 24-27, at Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, Calif.

“It is great to be home, and I have a lot of work to do on my game,” he said. “I had been looking forward to the trip to Japan for a number of months and now can’t believe it has ended. It was everything and more than I could have ever dreamed. I highly recommend to anyone who is considering a trip to Japan to go, if possible. I’ll try to earn my way back.”

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