'I never want to go through that again'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Brad Fritsch admits he was choking.

Blowing it.

The Manotick pro had hit shots into the water on two-straight holes as he came down the stretch in the final round of the PGA Tour's qualifying school, a six-round torture test that has been called golf's cruelest tournament.

His chances of finishing in the top 30 and earning a PGA Tour card for next year were gone and now he was in danger of frittering away his chance of finishing in the top 80 and earning fully exempt status on the second-tier Nationwide Tour.

Leaking oil? He was a bigger threat to the environment than the Exxon Valdez.

As he stood in the rough of his 16th hole of the day (the seventh at the Stadium Course at PGA West because he'd started on the back nine), already lying three on the par-4 after hitting his second shot in the water, he said to himself: "You're losing your Nationwide status. You've got to stop this bleeding."

He did.

After a drop, Fritsch hit his next one from 65 yards to 12 feet and made the putt for a gritty bogey. He parred the par-5 eighth and got up and down on his last hole, making an eight-footer for par.

That, it turned out, was the difference.

Fritsch finished at 1-under for 108 holes. Forty players earned their PGA Tour cards by shooting 8-under or better.

EARNS NATIONWIDE CARD

Fritsch can now look forward to playing full-time next year on the Nationwide Tour, just one step below the PGA Tour and a big step up from the Canadian Tour where he played for the last five years (the top money winner on the Canadian Tour last year made $67,336 Cdn. The top money winner on Nationwide made $382,443 US).

The top 20 players on the Nationwide Tour automatically earn their PGA Tour cards each year.

"I don't ever want to go through that again," said the 29-year-old, the relief obvious in his voice. "I just want to finish in the top 20 (on Nationwide) next year. They say (Q-school) is the toughest tournament and I think it really is. I never want to go through that again."

Yesterday started horribly for Fritsch but, like he did all tournament long, he showed a remarkable ability to claw his way back. He'd shot 81 in the first round, but bounced back, including a 63 on Saturday to get as low as a tie for 31st place.

He started on the back nine of the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course yesterday and double-bogeyed the 10th, hitting a 3-wood tee shot in the water. He had to make a 12-footer for the double.

He 3-putted the 17th to make the turn at 3-over, but reeled off birdies on the second, third and fourth holes to get back to even par and give himself a cushion inside the top 80.

But he hit it in the water on the 246-yard,par-3 sixth and made a double and then chunked his second shot on the seventh into the water, setting up his desperate finish.

"Was I gutting it out? Absolutely," said Fritsch. "That's a good way to put it. I'm feeling relief now more than anything, especially after a couple of the brutal holes I had today. Starting with an 81 and then playing 10-under after that is pretty satisfying."

Fritsch has a sponsor lined up for next year and plans on playing a full schedule on the Nationwide Tour.

Driving range pro Bryn Parry of Vancouver just missed writing one of the great stories of the tournament, missing his PGA Tour card by one stroke after a 73 yesterday.

Aurora's David Morland IV finished in a tie for 58th after a 74.


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