It’s only a major, after all.
Earlier this month in Verona, N.Y., Los Altos Golf Course pro David Muttitt headed to a seven-way playoff for one spot in this year’s final major – the PGA Championship, which begins today at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
Each year, the nation’s top 20 PGA club professionals – guys like Muttitt, who work at courses for a living and don’t play tour golf – get spots in the PGA Championship. They compete against each other in the PGA Professional Championship for those 20 entries.
This year, Muttitt tied for the 20th spot with six others.
Technically, he tied for 21st in the 312-player field – which would have left him out of the running. But because Atlanta’s Karen Paolozzi, who tied for seventh, chose to play from the forward tee boxes – making her course shorter – she was ineligible to get a PGA Championship berth.
That left Muttitt and the six other to vie for that one spot – all seven teeing off of on the first sudden death playoff hole.
“At that point, there really was no more pressure,” said Muttitt, who qualified for the PGA Championship in 2013. “I figured that there was nothing to lose. There was only a lot to gain.”
And the Englishman, indeed, gained a great deal.
And today, he tees it up with many of the world’s best players at Baltusrol.
“I really think having experience of playing in one before will help a great amount this week,” said Muttitt, who shot rounds of 75-70 at the PGA in 2013. “I only hit half the greens last time, and I still only missed the cut by two shots. I feel I have a big advantage having played in it before, and I really feel like I can do well this time.
“I know that experience helped me so much in the qualifier.”
Muttitt had a chance to avoid the playoff in the qualifier. After getting up-and-down out of a sand trap for par on 16 and making a nice two-putt from 40 feet for par on 17, he had a 10-footer for birdie on 18.
“If I make that putt, I knew I would get in,” he said. “But I missed it. I knew there was an outside chance for a playoff, but I found out there were seven guys for one spot and I thought I was done, to be honest.”
With Golf Channel showing the playoff live, the 33-year-old Muttitt and the six others teed off in the first playoff hole. He hit two quality shots and was just in front of the green on the par 5.
“I was in the best shape of anybody after two shots, but I had to wait awhile to hit my wedge shot,” he said. “I hit that about 3 feet. Then I had to wait a long time, it seemed like about 20 minutes, to hit that putt. I had to wait until the last guy had finished.”
Of the other six, only former PGA Professional Championship winner Scott Hebert made birdie. Muttitt did the same, sinking his 3-footer.
One the second extra hole, Hebert missed an 8-foot putt for birdie and on the third hole, Muttitt made “about a 12- or 15-footer for par” to tie.
Muttitt made par out of fairway bunker on the fourth extra hole while Hebert made bogey and that was that.
Muttitt was on the way to New Jersey.
After, of course, a few more weeks of work – and volunteering his time helping to run the Greater Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship and the Folds of Honor via the Hoefel Open.
“He just a great guy to have working here,” said Chris Moya, the director of golf at Los Altos. “I’m honored to have that kind of quality player and teacher. It was a no-brainer for me to hire him.
“He volunteers his time, he has a busy lessons schedule, he practices when he can and travels to play when he can. And he is so passionate about the game. You only want to encourage a guy with that kind of passion. He represents Los Altos. He represents New Mexico. He represents Albuquerque.”
While Muttitt, who has a thick British accent and considers himself English, was actually born in Dallas when his father worked there for Mobile Oil. His parents are both English and the family moved back across the pond when David was a toddler.
Muttitt’s mom, Larraine Bradbury, now lives in Rugby, England, and his father, Norman Muttitt, lives in Dallas where he is battling prostate cancer. His brother, Timothy Muttitt, also lives in Dallas and sister Sarah Muttitt lives in London.
His son, 6-year-old-Charlie, lives in Albuquerque.
“It means a lot to me, because mum, dad, brother and Charlie are all here with me in New Jersey,” Muttitt told the Journal on Wednesday.
Muttitt returned to the States for the first time in 2001 as a student at Roswell’s New Mexico Military Academy and played golf for the team for three semesters.
He then went to a community college in Dallas and turned professional in 2005.
Muttitt has some success on minitours but became a Class A PGA club pro in 2013.
He worked as an assistant pro at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club for a couple of years before joining Los Altos a little less than two years ago.
Last fall, he tried to make the Web.com Tour via Qualifying School, but came up short.
He is still one of the best, if not the best, pros in the state.
“He’s the best, and it’s not even close,” said Santa Ana pro Steve Manning. “He hung a 66-63 in Roswell at the Desert Sun Classic (mid-July) and beat (runner-up and longtime PGA Tour veteran) Kent Jones by five shots. I think it’s safe to say that he’s the best player in the state period. That was the best golf I’ve ever seen, and I feel fortunate to have played along side with some great players before.”
While Muttitt said the dream of competing on the PGA Tour never dies, he is now simply focused on teaching and working at Los Altos.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said of being on tour. “But I’m not going to go back to Q-School any time soon. This is one week, and that’s the beauty about this game – your life can change in one week.
“I have a good week and finish top 15, who knows what can happen from there? But I’m just planning to go back to work with Chris and Colby (head pro Reddoch) next week and help them as much as I can.”
LOCAL TIE: Brad Lardon, who just moved to New Mexico from Texas to become the new director of golf at Santa Fe’s Las Campanas, finished tied for 13th at 2 under in the PGA Professional Championship and also qualified for today’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.