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One-on-one with an NFL star

This cell phone image is the only picture Hudson's Jimmy Hutchings has from the day he played Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo in the WSGA Match Play Championships June 15 in Fond du Lac. From left are Romo, Hutchings and Hutchings' caddy, Matt Brandenburg. Submitted photo

Jimmy Hutchings never dreamed he'd be playing a professional at the Wisconsin State Golf Association Match Play Championship Tournament in Fond du Lac two weeks ago.

Especially a professional football player.

But that's where the 2008 Hudson High School graduate and junior-to-be at UW-Eau Claire found himself June 15.

After shooting a two over-par 74 in stroke play the day before to qualify for the match play portion of the tournament, and winning his opening match Tuesday, Hutchings stood on the first tee at Whispering Springs Golf Course ready to take on Dallas Cowboy quarterback and Burlington, Wisconsin, native Tony Romo.

Hutchings said he realized when the brackets came out that if he and Romo both won their respective opening matches, they would face each other in the second round.

"I was thinking about it the whole morning, but I tried to put it in the back of my mind and focus on my first match," he said.

Hutchings defeated James Sigel of Washington County 2-and-1 in his opening match while Romo, fresh off a failed bid to qualify for the U.S. Open, defeated Danny Behm of Washington County 3-and-2 to advance.

Hutchings said he was nervous at the start of the match against Romo and lost three of the first four holes. Once he settled down though, he won two straight holes and got the match back to all-square after nine.

The match remained all-square until Hutchings won the 16th to go one-up heading into 17. Hutchings made bogey on 17 while Romo made par to tie the match with one hole remaining. Hutchings made a 10-foot putt to match Romo's par on 18 and force sudden death, then drained a 20-footer on the first playoff hole to keep the match going.

Finally, on the 22nd hole, Romo prevailed.

"He hit it to 15 feet on a par-3 and I couldn't get up and down," Hutchings said. "It was a tough hole."

Hutchings said he and Romo didn't speak much over the course of the first four holes, but said once he loosened up he and the quarterback got along great.

"He had his dad and his caddie with him and he kept to himself and just talked to them at the beginning," Hutchings said. "After the first four holes when I wasn't as nervous we talked, but he didn't want to talk about football at all. My caddie brought it up one time but he had just played in the U.S. Open qualifier and was really focused on golf.

"He's a really nice guy," Hutchings added. "After our round he talked to me for about five minutes and said congratulations and good luck."

Hutchings said he was surprised at how long Romo can hit the ball.

"He probably hits it over 300 yards," he said. "He can't putt or chip, but he hits the ball really well. I kept thinking, for a guy who plays football eight months out of the year, he's a really good golfer."

Hutchings has played in his share of big tournaments in the past. He was a four-year letterwinner and three-time All-Big Rivers Conference First Team golfer with the Raiders and finished sixth at the WIAA State Tournament his sophomore year in 2006. Earlier this spring he played on the UW-Eau Claire golf team that qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships in Hershey, Pa.,

He said his experience playing against Romo may have been just as valuable an experience.

"It definitely gave me a lot of confidence, knowing that I can play with someone with that aura and that I can play and not be nervous," he said. "I'll be able to use it in my future experiences."

Romo, by the way, went on to defeat Mike Sorenson of Chenequa Country Club, 3-and-2, in the third round before losing to eventual champion and former University of Wisconsin golfer Jordan Elsen of Kenosha, 1-up, in the quarterfinals.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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