Hutsby homing in on success
Sam Hutsby looks a star in the making and Mark Garrod picks out the Hampshire golfer as his one to watch in 2010.
The nine-year-old kid wearing clothes meant for six-year-olds might have looked too small to become a European Tour golfer one day, but England’s Sam Hutsby has made it and now looks a star in the making.
At 21 Hutsby is, of course, older than Rory McIlroy, who has already climbed into the world’s top 10.
He is also five years older than Matteo Manassero, the Italian wonder boy who beat him in the final of the British Amateur in June and then a month later finished an incredible 13th in the Open.
But, envious though he was of Manassero playing alongside Tom Watson and Sergio Garcia at Turnberry and also claiming a place in the Masters at Augusta this coming April, Hutsby has since gone from strength to strength.
The Hampshire player won a Walker Cup cap in September and in his third professional start a month later shared the lead when he began his final round of the Castello Masters in Spain by pitching in for an eagle two.
He eventually came eighth there, but that still earned him a place in the following week’s Singapore Open and by finishing 11th in that he went into the Tour qualifying school sky-high on confidence.
“Results bounce off each other and I had shown I can really compete with these guys,” said Hutsby.
That is no guarantee of success, though. After all, Justin Rose failed to make it through in the year he finished fourth in the Open.
Moreover, Hutsby had to contend with not only the six rounds of the final stage, but four rounds before that and it was only after sinking a 45-footer on the final green – arguably the most important putt of his life – that he discovered he had avoided a play-off by a single shot.
The last step to a Tour card was a breeze by comparison, but en route to finishing a superb second behind 2004 Wales Open champion Simon Khan there was a moment of real panic away from the PGA Catalunya course.
“I’d parked my car on the seafront after the second round and next morning it had gone,” he said.
“A security guy told us that it had been towed away and so we ran to the police station about a mile away, signed some papers and got it back.
“I had about 90 minutes less to get ready than I’d planned and when I three-putted from six feet on the first I thought it might be one of those days.”
Instead, though, he grabbed six birdies for a 65 that moved him up from 50th to 22nd and by playing the next three rounds in 13 under he left nobody in any doubt about his potential.
That included eagles on four successive par fives, further proof that even at 5ft 8in he packs a big punch.
Now Hutsby hopes to succeed his former amateur partner Chris Wood – all 6ft 5in of him – as Rookie of the Year.
“First I’ve just got to try to find my feet and secure my card for the following season, but that will definitely be a goal,” he said.
“What Chris has done so far is just awesome. Last year we were playing together for England and then the next minute he’s texted me to say: ”I’M IN THE OPEN!’
Wood, of course, finished fifth as an amateur after qualifying for Birkdale and this July was joint third at Turnberry.
“I know the level he plays at and him nearly winning the Open has given me more belief.”
Hutsby was seven when his father introduced him to the game, but a mere two years later won the junior (under-18) title at Fairthorne Manor near Southampton.
“I just walked around with a big smile and didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalled.
The tiny tot’s win that day has turned out to be anything but a fluke, however, and at a time when English golf has more stars than ever before, another has arrived determined to join the fun and make his mark.
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