The 23-year-old, who joined the Canadian Tour just nine days ago after a 10-stroke win at winter qualifying school, carded a final-round 1-under 69. That gave him a 72-hole total of 8-under 272, two shots better than Americans Michael Harris, Craig Kanada, Joe Ogilvie and Roger Tambellini. Jason Bohn and James Driscoll finished at 5-under, while Adam Short of Vineland, Ontario, was the top Canadian, coming in at 4-under 276, good enough for sole possession of eighth place.
Hultman began the day thee shots behind Ogilvie and one back of Tambellini.
Mother Nature flexed her muscles Sunday, with near-freezing temperatures and gusting winds swirling throughout the 6,523-yard Crenshaw Cliffside course at Barton Creek. Just eight of the 71 golfers managed to break par in the final round, among them Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ontario, whose 3-under 67 moved him from 42nd spot into a tie for 11th. The scoring average for the field on Sunday was 73.5, nearly two shots higher than Saturday.
Ogilvie carried a two-shot lead into the final round, but a 4-over 38 on the front side from the former PGA Tour player handed Tambellini a two-shot edge at the turn. Trailing Tambellini by three shots standing on the 11th tee, Hultman, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State, birdied the hole before eagling the par-5 12th to pull even.
But the best was yet to come. Hultman stepped up to the 175-yard, par-3 13th and used a 9-iron to ace the hole, putting the finishing touches on a 5-under stretch over three holes and building a two-stroke cushion. A resilient Tambellini got back to within one with a birdie on 14, but followed that up with a bogey on the next hole, which essentially ended the drama.
There are parts of this game that never cease to amaze me, admitted Hultman. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could ever do something like that over three holes.
Last season, Hank Kuehne, Jeff Quinney and Jimmy Walker, graduates from the 2002 winter Q-school, became champions in the tours second, third and fourth official events of the year, respectively. Steve Scott of Florida won the 2001 TELUS Vancouver Open, his second start after joining the tour at spring qualifying in 2001.
There were a lot of great players here this week, and I was just going to take this tournament as it came, he said. I try not to focus on the other players, I need to pay attention to my own game. But to start my Canadian Tour career with a win here is amazing.
Even with a two-shot cushion, Hultman caught a big break on the par-3 17th when his tee shot sailed right and came to rest in a hazard. He got a favorable lie, saving himself from having to take a drop, and scooped his second shot to within 20 feet before two-putting for bogey.
I just wanted to hit the green, and when I missed I knew I was in a lot of trouble, he said. I told me caddie to wait in the (ball) drop area, so I was very fortunate there. I thought I was taking a stroke.
Tambellini, who holds conditional status on the Nationwide Tour this year, had his third career runner-up showing Sunday. He couldnt help but ponder if this was the one that got away, but tipped his hat to Hultman with the birdie-eagle-ace run that put the Swede in control.
Have you ever seen anything like that? wondered Tambellini, shaking his head. That was something. But I had a big lead, and I let it get away. Mentally, I wasnt as sharp as I have been and it cost me.
Like Hultman, Harris went into the final round three shots off the lead and stayed well within striking distance all day despite not draining a birdie until the 17th hole. The tours Most Improved International Player in 2002 said he didnt put the pressure on when he needed to and couldnt make a charge until it was too late.
That just isnt going to cut it when you are trying to come from behind to win a golf tournament, reasoned the 25-year-old Michigan native. I feel my game is coming around, but you have to stay consistent the entire round. You cant slap the ball around out there and expect to beat great competition.
The Canadian Tour stays at Barton Creek this week for the TravelTex.com Canadian Tour Challenge, which gets under way Thursday at the neighboring Fazio Foothills layout.