Fritsch shoots for career high

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Brad Fritsch is a big Senators fan and, if he didn't have to be on the road for business, he would have likely been at the club's game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., last night.

"Yeah, I would have been there, but that's okay. I'll take where I am," he said.

Fritsch, the former Manotick resident who now calls Raleigh home, is in La Quinta, Calif., where this morning he will tee off in the first round of the last stage of qualifying for 2007 PGA Tour cards.

It is potentially a huge step forward for the 29-year-old in a year full of them. If he can finish in the top 30 players after the six rounds over the next six days, he will make it to the big time on the PGA Tour.

But even if he doesn't make it to the Tour next year, he is guaranteed to have status on the Nationwide Tour, one step below the PGA Tour and a step up from the Canadian Tour where Fritsch has played for the last five years.

Bonus time

"This is an accomplishment for me to be here," said Fritsch. "Anything I do here is a bonus and that helps me a lot. I'm already in a pretty good position because anything I do next year is going to be better than last year. I'm going to be playing at a higher level than last year. I've been to the second stage so many times this is more like a relief.

"I look at this as a chance to get where I should be (at this point in my career.) I don't know if it's the PGA Tour or the Nationwide Tour, but I feel like I belong on one of them."

Fritsch has made it to the final stage in his sixth attempt at qualifying for the PGA Tour. This has been a year with several significant steps forward for Fritsch, both on and off the course.

He became the first local player to play in one of golf's majors when he won a dramatic playoff to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Fritsch birdied both holes in the five-man playoff (which included Ryder Cupper Vaughn Taylor) to earn a spot in the U.S. Open.

He missed the cut there, but gained valuable experience exposing his game to the sport's highest level of competition.

He also won a qualifier in a playoff to earn the right to play in the Canadian Open.

Fritsch shot a final-round 66 in the second stage of Tour qualifying to make it on the number and get to where he is today.

Off the course, Fritsch recently became engaged and made the decision to make Raleigh his home. Just last year he was contemplating quitting tournament golf because he was having trouble establishing and maintaining a relationship and wanted to get on with life.

Now both his professional and personal lives are coming together.

Fritsch has had three days of practice rounds on the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West. His take is the tougher Stadium course will make the players play a little more defensively because of its small greens.

"They are so small here, hitting it into the middle of the green is never a bad thing," he said. "For the first couple of days, I'm going to take that approach and see where it puts me. This is such a marathon, you don't have to shoot lights out. You just have to play smart and keep your head above water."

The final stage of Tour school is legendary for its pressure. Among the 163 players trying to earn their way to the show (or back to it) are two-time U.S Open champion Lee Janzen, former Ryder Cupper Chris Riley, and former Tour regulars Duffy Waldorf, Carlos Franco and Bob May.

12th attempt

Michael Allen leads the field in making his 12th trip to the qualifying tournament.

"There are guys here who played on the PGA Tour last year and they're trying to get back there,'' said Fritsch. ''They don't want to be here, but they have to be. You are going to see some guys snap here in the next few days if things aren't going their way."

In addition to Fritsch, other Canadians in the final stage are North Bay native David Morland IV, Brett Bingham of Red Deer and Bryn Parry of North Vancouver.


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