Back-to-school for Hnatiuk

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

Now it's time for Glen Hnatiuk to relax and get his game in order.

After missing the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship last week, Hnatiuk knows that he's going back to school.

Not to university or the school of hard knocks, but something even tougher -- PGA Tour Qualifying School.

The Selkirk product will tee it up at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancovuer for the Bell Canadian Open, but not on the major medical extension he has been playing on up to this point.

No, Hnatiuk's 20-tournament exemption has expired and he'll be playing this week on a sponsor's invitation.

Hnatiuk did what he had to do during the 2004 PGA Tour season, getting the surgery he needed in May to repair the tennis elbow in his left arm that was affecting his game after playing in nine tournaments.

After a lengthy rehabiliation process, Hnatiuk got back to full health and was plying his trade among the world's best on the links.

He understood that returning to the tour after taking nearly a year off was going to be a challenge.

Golf is a tough enough game as it is and the strain can only be compounded when you go into the season knowing you'll need to rack up big earnings during 20 events to maintain exempt status on the tour you've worked so hard to be a full-time member on.

But Hnatiuk spent little time feeling sorry for himself. He knew exactly what needed to be done and was focused on doing what he could to maintain his status.

Things got off to a tough start as Hnatiuk missed the cut in his first three events of the 2005 season, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, FDR Open and Chrysler Classic of Tucson.

WON'T MAINTAIN EXEMPTION

Hnatiuk cashed his first cheque the next week, tying for 52nd at the Ford Championship at Doral, which started a stretch that saw him make the cut in four of five events, culminating with a season-best tie for 21st at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

It was beginning to look like Hnatiuk was turning the corner, but it was not to be.

Six consecutive missed cuts would derail what looked to be a positive development for the former Canadian Tour player.

By demonstrating the mettle of a man who has toiled on golf's minor league tours and is determined not to go back, Hnatiuk regrouped with a tie for 36th at the John Deere Classic, a tie for 40th at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, a tie for 22nd at the Buick Open and a tie for 45th at The International.

With only two tournaments left and $334,600 in earnings to make up to get the required $623,262 the 125th player on the money list made in 2004, Hnatiuk was on his last legs.

Missing the cut the past two weeks, at the Buick Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship, made it official but all is not lost.

Hnatiuk, who has four Nationwide (formerly Nike Tour) victories on his resume, did manage a couple of Top-25 finishes and found he was hitting the ball fairly well (he entered this week 19th on Tour for hitting greens in regulation).

Although efforts to reach Hnatiuk were unsuccessful, we would assume Hnatiuk will hope for a few more sponsor's exemptions, attempt to Monday qualify for several events and spend a lot of time fine-tuning his game before returning to PGA Tour Qualifying school for the first time since 2000.

Hnatiuk did not accomplish his goal this season, but he has certainly laid the groundwork for getting things going back in the right direction.


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