PGA berth within Hutsell’s grasp at PNC

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – David Hutsell has been here before – deep into the Professional National Championship and a spot in the PGA Championship clearly within sight, so close it must seem he can just reach out and pluck it. Perhaps the experience of being in this position will be of some assistance on Wednesday, when he’ll get another crack at it.

In the 2001 PNC, Hutsell, 39 and the director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore, Md., was only four shots out of the lead after an opening two rounds of 70-68, but a 73-79 weekend left him two shots shy of the top 20 and a spot in that year’s PGA Championship in Atlanta.

Three years ago, any under-par score on the last day at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort would have done it, but those hopes were quashed early as he tumbled to an 85.

On Tuesday, Hutsell came within one 9-foot putt of what would have been a head-turning round: going around the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort without a bogey. As it was, the 9-footer he missed at the 17th green was the only smear on a 2-under-par 70 that put him solidly in the mix for Wednesday’s rewards; the top 20 finishers earn a spot in August’s PGA Championship field at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.

“I’m just trying to keep it in play,” said Hutsell, who enters Wednesday’s final round in a share of 20th place at 2-over 216. “On this golf course, you can get sideways in a hurry and make a big number. I’m just trying to hit fairways and greens and I was fortunate enough to do that for most of the round. All in all, I’m very pleased. I figured if I could shoot even par I’d move up the leaderboard a fair amount. Anything under par is a great score on this golf course; even par on this golf course is a great score.”

Since it opened 14 months ago, the Dye Course has been a bear. The winning total in last year’s Indiana PGA Championship was 9 over, and the average scores over the first two days of the PNC have been 77.99 and 77.51, respectively.

“Birdies are tough to come by on either of the two golf courses we’ve played, but especially here,” said Hutsell.

“I was fortunate enough to have a Pete Dye golf course built in my hometown probably 10 or 12 years ago, Bulle Rock Golf Course, and it’s a similar look and feel. Pete is very good at making things look a lot harder than they are. You stand on a tee box and it looks like there’s no place to hit it, and when you get out there you say, ‘Wow, there’s a lot more room than I thought.’ But you start missing around the greens and it gets really tough.”

Although Hutsell too far back to contend for the title, there still will be plenty to play for late on Wednesday afternoon.

“Having played in this tournament a handful of times and having been in that borderline situation, top 20 and going to the PGA, you can’t press it too much,” said Hutsell. “Par is going to be a good score, and if you can happen to do that and a couple of birdies happen to fall, that’s all the better. But I’ll take even par tomorrow and be very happy.”

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