GROVE CITY, Pa. -- Since he began playing golf in ninth grade, Sebastian Hutman has been on something of a fast track to success.
In just six years, he has played a bucket list of iconic golf courses -- Winged Foot, Merion, Baltusrol, Aronomink -- as a member of Oakmont Country Club's junior traveling team; is a sophomore in the golf management program at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C.; and leaves today for a six-month internship at the storied Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Oh yeah, and he is one step closer toward qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Open.
"I wasn't big enough to keep playing football," said Hutman, an amateur from Conneaut Lake. "So I decided to pick up golf."
He has picked it up in a hurry.
Hutman shot a 1-under 70 on Tuesday in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Grove City Country Club, tying Canadian PGA Tour player Mark Hoffman for low honors and gaining one of the four qualifying spots.
On a cool, gray day in which Hutman and Hoffman were the only players to better par, the other qualifying spots went to former Grove City member Derek Forese (71), an assistant professional at Bermuda Dunes in LaQuinta, Calif; and Shawn Adamczyk (72), an assistant pro at the Kahkwa Club in Erie
They will advance to as 36-hole sectional qualifier at various sites, the final step on the road to the U.S. Open June 13-16 at the Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia.
Hutman's rapid ascent is surprising, although his transition to golf is not.
Since he was 8, Hutman lived along the fairways at Oakland Beach Golf Club in Conneaut Lake. The course is owned by his stepfather, Gar Prebor, an Oakmont member. But he spent most of his time in grade school and middle school playing other sports, among them football and soccer.
"I played every other sport but golf," Hutman said.
That all changed when he got to high school. Hutman began playing golf in ninth grade. Because his stepfather was a member at Oakmont, he took lessons from golf professional Bob Ford and eventually became a member of the club's junior traveling team. That's where he was able to play courses most golfers only dream of playing.
"Bob changed his feet position and that was it," said Prebor, who caddied for his stepson.
Hutman made his move on the front nine, when he shot 33 with birdies at Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 8, the latter when he hit a hybrid to 6 feet at the 445-yard par 4. On the back, he just tried to play mistake-free, offsetting a bogey at the par-3 11th with eight pars.
"I played really solid, really well," Hutman said.
Advancing to a sectional qualifier was something of a panacea for Hoffman, a native of suburban Toronto who was still trying to get over the shocking last-minute collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before in Boston.
"I didn't really want to play today," Hoffman said.
Hoffman, though, managed to get over the disappointment with a round that included three birdies and two bogeys. And, unlike the Maple Leafs, he even had some good fortune at the end, electing to play his third shot off a cart path rather than take a free drop at the 532-yard 18th hole -- a decision that allowed him to make a birdie from 30 inches and tie Hutman for low honors.
"If I would've taken a drop, a tree would have been in my way," Hoffman said. "I had a better opening from the path."
Hoffman elected to make the 4 1/2-hour drive from Thornhill, Ontario, to play Grove City because he played there in a qualifier for the 2011 U.S. Amateur and loved the course.
And he didn't even mind the cool May weather, which reminded him of playing in Canada -- and elsewhere.
"I've played in a lot worse," Hoffman said. "I've played a lot in Scotland. After playing there, nothing could be worse than that."
Except maybe a collapse by the Maple Leafs.mobilehome - golf
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.