BRIGHTON — One part of his life nearly complete, Otto Black is eagerly anticipating the next step.
Black, a former golf standout at Pinckney, recently graduated with a business degree in entrepreneurship after a stellar four years at the University of Toledo.
Monday, he begins play as an individual at an NCAA regional in Wisconsin. If he does well there, he’ll play at the NCAA nationals in Eugene, Ore.
Then, the career he’s always wanted begins when he turns pro.
Black, who averaged 72.9 strokes per 18 holes as a senior with the Rockets, begins his pro career in June with PGA Tour Canada.
“It’s a gateway tour to the PGA,” Black said Friday before a workout at his home course, Lakelands Golf and Country Club. “The top five money-winners in Canada get full-time Web.com status the next year. If you’re top-10 or top-20 you can go to the Q-school they have. You can skip to the final stage, and if I do well, I can improve my Web.com status.”
The Web.com Tour is a level below the PGA, a developmental system for golfers looking to play in the PGA.
Black qualified for PGA Tour Canada earlier in the spring.
“I’ve been looking forward to it,” he said.
He’s been working toward this point for a long time.
“Otto’s parents were members here a few years back, and he moved up through our junior golf program,” Lakelands golf pro Eric Martin said. “He’s done an unbelievable job in progressing through his game and to college with a scholarship.”
Black was good enough during his high school career to earn a full-ride at Toledo, and he made the most of the opportunity. He was an all-Mid-American Conference selection in all four years, the last two on the first team and was the MAC freshman of the year in 2012-13.
In 12 tournaments, he had three top-five finishes this season and was fourth in the MAC in stroke average.
A year ago, Black made a breakthrough at the Horton Smith Invitational in Detroit, winning the event with an 11-par 269 that included a 63 on the final day.
“He can play,” Martin said.
While his physical game has progressed, Black says he’s also working on his mental game.
“Mentally, I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “At this level, we all hit it pretty similar. Some strike it better and others have part of their games that are better. But those who are mentally tougher, those are the ones that make it. It’s not a perfect game. They take what they can get, and take advantage of the days when they’re hitting it well.
“The more you play tournament golf, you learn,” he said. “And I’ve gotten better and better every year, not just in stroke average, but how I approach golf and how I practice. I’ve learned so much and I can learn even more.”
Black played basketball for several seasons at Pinckney, and he says things he learned in other sports have been helpful.
“You pick up some things you don’t realize,” he said. “I think the biggest thing I learned was time management and setting your priorities straight, so you can get some stuff done.”
Certainly he’s done that, getting through college in four years and graduating on time.
“I wanted to push for four years and get out,” he said, smiling. “I didn’t want to hang around.”
During the week between his graduation and getting prepared for the NCAA’s biggest stage in golf, Black practiced at Lakelands.
“This club and staff has been unbelievable,” he said. “They’re going to let me play and ractice and represent the club in a great way, to promote the club. Eric Martin has been very supportive. They have great practice facilities.
“I grew up out here when I was a kid, so I’m familiar with the place and I love the members here. It’s kind of a home field. I can hang out, talk to guys and get some work done. They have a nice practice hole at the back of the range where I can work on all kinds of shots. It’s a really good place where when I’m home I can work on my game and get better.”
Martin and the staff at Lakelands are excited to have him.
“Very much so,” he said. “We’re looking forward to helping him along the best we can at this end, giving him a place to practice and play out of while he takes this venture forward.”
Very soon, Black will get the chance to live out the dream many kids have, working for a chance to eventually play on TV with golf’s biggest players.
“That’s the plan,” he said with a smile. “These next 4-5 years I’m putting everything toward that and reassess from there. ”
There are no guarantees, of course. But Black appears to have the balance between pursing a dream and putting in the work that makes one think that reassessment may be a lot further than 4-5 years into the future.