Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Robinson: Fritsch on cusp of PGA Tour Card

After more than a decade grinding out a career as a touring pro at virtually all levels around North America, Brad Fritsch of Manotick, Ont., is two weeks away from securing a 2013 PGA Tour card.

After more than a decade grinding out a career as a touring pro at virtually all levels around North America, Brad Fritsch is two weeks away from earning a 2013 PGA Tour card.

The 34-year-old from Manotick, Ont., missed the cut last week at the Tour's Miccosukee Championship in Miami, but was fortunate not to surrender much ground on that circuit's money list. Fritsch is currently 22nd with $172,368 US this season on the strength of four top-five finishes and another T7 showing.

The top 25 golfers on the get an automatic pass to the PGA Tour next year. At present, Fritsch has an almost $13,000 cushion between himself and the player who is currently 26th, former PGA Tour member Paul Claxton.

The final full-field event on the circuit takes place this week in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and then the top-60 golfers travel to McKinney, Tex., where the top 25 will be awarded their PGA Tour cards at the conclusion of play on Sunday night.

Fritsch has taken a circuitous route to get to the cusp of the PGA Tour. It wasn't long after he turned professional back in 2000 that he showed flashes of considerable talent, first in Monday qualifying for a PGA Tour event in Greensboro, N.C., and later when he teed it up on the Canadian Tour for his first time.

Respectable stints on the (then) Nationwide Tour followed, along with a tournament victory at the Azores Open back in 2006 and qualifying for the U.S. Open the same year. Even during a few fallow patches -- he was forced to come back to the Canadian Tour in 2010 and 2011 -- Fritsch has always managed to scratch and claw his way back into the mix.

Asked if he ever doubted whether the journey was worth it, Fritsch said: "Every time when some doubt [could have crept in], something new happened. In '06, I wasn't always playing well, but then I qualified for the U.S. Open ... there always has been something. In a good way, my game has never regressed."

'Sometimes life just gets in the way'

Fritsch's life hasn't been on hold during his golf journey. He is now married and he and his wife Megan and their three-year-old daughter live in Holly Springs, N.C. He did concede that the juggling act of golf, family and life's natural ebb and flow does present some challenges.

"Sometimes life just gets in the way," he said.

Though he had to take a step down to play the Canadian Tour again in 2010 and 2011 after he failed to win enough money in 16 starts or get his Nationwide Tour card back through Q School, Fritsch was a consistent performer. Though he didn't win a tournament on his home circuit, he finished 10th in 2010 on the Order of Merit and 12th last year.

A solid and sustained run through PGA Tour qualifying last fall saw him miss his PGA Tour by just a few shots, but it earned him a return trip to the renamed Tour this season. Since then, he has been a consistent presence either inside or near the top 25 on the money list. In that sense, it's almost as if Fritsch returned to the development circuit re-energized and more focused.

"I've been able to maintain the [necessary] level of play," said Fritsch, who previously had been hurt by stretches of missed cuts during his earlier time on the Nationwide circuit.

Forecasting money-list results in golf is a mug's game because, at any time, players well back can throw caution to the win and earn big cheques. All things being equal, though, if Fritsch makes the cut this week and finishes in the top half of the field, he likely will hold his position on the money list. With no cut at the Tour Championship in two weeks, another top-half showing will likely be enough.

Two other Canadians, Richard Scott (47th) of Kingsville, Ont., and Adam Hadwin (48th) of Abbotsford, B.C., flip-flopped their respective money-list positions this past Sunday. Both will need second-place showings this week in order to get inside the top 25, but they will qualify for the Tour Championship.

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