Two players share medalist honors at U.S. Open qualifier
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Sebastian Hutman figured playing Oakmont Country Club when the course's teeth were particularly sharp would prepare him for his first qualifying tournament.
That thinking is one reason Hutman is a step away from playing in the U.S. Open next month at Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia.
Hutman birdied four of his first eight holes Tuesday at Grove City Country Club and shot 1-under-par 70 in a local qualifier to share medalist honors with Mark Hoffman, a PGA Tour player from Canada.
Derek Forese (71) and Shawn Adamczyk (72) also advanced to sectional qualifying, which will be June 3 at courses across the country.
Hutman, Hoffman and Forese, a mini-tour player who grew up less than a mile from Grove City Country Club, were the only ones to shoot par or better among the 65 who teed off Tuesday.
The qualifier was delayed for an hour because of morning frost, and for a while, it looked like the four players who shot 74, including Rick Stimmel of Pittsburgh, would play off for the fourth and final qualifying spot. In the end, five players finished better than 74, with Jaushua Eckman of Natrona Heights claiming the first alternate spot.
“My goal was to shoot even par,” said Hutman, who just finished his sophomore year at Campbell in North Carolina.
Hutman, who is from Conneaut Lake, did one better after he turned a potential bogey into an early birdie.
It came on No. 2, a lengthy par 4, after a wayward tee shot. Hutman hit a 4-iron from 195 yards, and the shot not only cleared the trees that were in front of him but also landed on the green.
He rolled in the 12-foot putt, made three more birdies on the front nine and played steady the rest of the way.
Hutman, a junior member at Oakmont, played Sunday from the tips in a stiff wind.
The round made any weather conditions on a gray, brisk day at Grove City seem benign.
The weather also did not bother Hoffman, who made an unorthodox birdie on the finishing par 5 after it looked like his round might get away from him.
Hoffman, 24, went for the green in two, and his ball settled on a collection of pebbles that are part of the golf path. That proved to be a break as Hoffman and others in his group thought he had hit his ball into the woods right of the green.
Hoffman decided to play from the path rather than take a drop, chipped through a narrow 3-foot opening, and his ball settled 21⁄2 feet from the cup.
Hoffman made the putt to cap a day that had been markedly better than the previous one. Hoffman, who hails from outside of Toronto, had watched in agony the previous night as the Maple Leafs blew a 4-1 third-period lead to lose an opening-round playoff series to the Bruins.
Hoffman jokingly said the loss upset him so much that he didn't even feel like playing in the qualifier.
It didn't bother him on the course: he missed just four greens while shooting 70.
“I played solid,” Hoffman said. “The one thing professional golf has taught me is that pars are always good.”
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