About the same time Sunday that Tiger Woods was looking for a way to pass the competition for his fifth Masters jacket, Drake Hull was playing his way through heavy rain in College Station, Pennsylvania, in search of his first collegiate victory.
The end result was a one-shot victory for both.
A 1-under par showing on the back nine at The Penn State Blue Course ushered Hull to the top of the leader board and could open the door to the next level for the remainder of his career at the University of Connecticut.
The red-shirt junior fired a closing 3-under par 68 at the Penn State Rutherford Intercollegiate for his third sub-par round of the 54-hole event.
“It feels really good. It kind of came out of nowhere,” Hull said on Tuesday.
“I felt like I’ve been playing pretty well but I’d been missing scoring opportunities. It had been frustrating the last couple of weeks.”
Hull has put on a lot of golfing miles since graduating from Rutland High School. He began his collegiate career at the University of Kansas, where he stayed two years before transferring to UConn for the 2017-18 season. He found it to be a better fit but before Sunday, Hull, a dominant schoolboy player his last three years in Vermont, had not been able to take advantage of several chances to win a medal.
A bout with the flu earlier this spring and bronchitis right on its heels left him feeling sapped. But Hull’s play in College Station proved he was finally healthy again; he fired rounds of 1-under 70 on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday broke free of a third-place tie to win by a shot.
Hull said he had been losing strokes in all aspects of his game but his putting problems were solved with the help of Max Major, his former RHS teammate who is now the Huskies’ assistant coach.
“Max gave me some putting drills to do,” Hull said. “He sees everything that I see.”
The tournament’s 78-player field was informed that foul weather was in the offing for later Sunday so Hull knew he was going to need a good start. He accomplished this with two front-side birdies and when the rain came on the back nine he set his jaw and found a way to get the ball in the hole, including making one more birdie.
Hull came to the 500-yard 18th hole and hit a tee shot into the fairway. Major, watching the play, asked Hull whether he wanted to know where he stood. Hull didn’t need to hear it.
“I’ve got a hybrid 220 yards to a tucked pin. If I make par, I win,” he said.
Hull hit just over the green, chipped back and made a 9-footer to finish off the victory.
“I was super proud of that back nine,” he said.
Hull notched the first outright individual victory of the year for a UConn golfer and led the Huskies to fourth place in a field of 13 teams.
His 208 total equaled the lowest tourney score of Hull’s career and hiked his total of par-or-better rounds to 19 this season and 35 for his career. Hull also has nine sub-70 rounds. It was Hull’s third top-10 and sixth top-20 finish this season.
But now a victory tops his college resume.
“It’s so hard to win out here,” said Hull, the two-time and defending Vermont Amateur champion.
“There are a lot of super players. But it’s nice to know that you are playing well.”
And even better to know that you’ve won.
NOTES: Hull said Major has been a good hire at UConn. “The guys love him,” he said. ... Next year another former teammate, Jared Nelson, and Logan Broyles, who will graduate Rutland High in June, will join the Huskies program. That will make four of Raiders coach Rich Alberti’s players under one Division I program’s umbrella. ... Hull will defend his Vermont Am title and his L.D. Pierce Invitational title this summer, both at Rutland Country Club. He won his third Pierce last August with Nelson as his first-time partner. Hull won his Vermont Am titles at The Country Club of Vermont (2018) and Dorset Field Club (2017).