Brad Fritsch ready for run at PGA Tour card

Brad Fritsch. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency file photo)

Brad Fritsch. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency file photo)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:07 PM ET

That feeling of elation when you receive your high school diploma and pose for mom and dad’s photos is fleeting, a moment of recognition for the hard work you put in, but perhaps deceiving in that what’s ahead still requires work ethic at an even higher level.

Graduation day on the Web.com Tour takes place Sunday for the top 25 on the money list once the Tour Championship concludes in McKinney, Tex., where Brad Fritsch of Manotick is on that honour roll going in, the occupant of the 21st position as it stands right now.

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., and Richard Scott of Kingsville, Ont., also have outside shots from their positions in 48th and 50th, respectively.

Fritsch hasn’t been flashy, but certainly consistent with his six top-10 finishes in 2012. The grinding that got him this far will serve him well if he should hold on this week and graduate to the PGA Tour, a world of new faces and new places.

“It can be overwhelming for a new player getting to that point, with everything that’s going on,” said Belleville’s Jon Mills, who has been down that road a couple of times himself.

“You’ve got to be very conscious of making sure you go with a focus, just kind of do your own thing and don’t get distracted because there are so many distractions out on that tour,” he added.

After winning the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship, Mills went on to finish fifth on the money list to earn his first shot at the PGA Tour the following year.

He struggled that year and found himself back on the development tour in 2007, but he rebounded to finish fourth on the money list for his second shot at the PGA Tour in 2008, when he missed the cut in his last eight starts.

Mills is also taking a stab at returning this year, albeit through a different route. He’ll be at the second stage of qualifying school at Southern Hills Plantation in Florida in a couple of weeks.

If Fritsch or Mills make it, they’ll find the PGA Tour to be PGA More, as in more company reps, more agents, more spectators and more media. Combined, it’s easy to stray from the task at hand if you’re not used to it, says Mills.

“Since you’re seeing all these new golf courses for the first time, you have to really focus and pay attention to the practice rounds,” said Mills, adding that the familiarity of your previous tour is now gone, as are the faces you got to know.

“You’re going to get paired with guys that you either watched on TV or idolized. There’s definitely that aspect to it,” said Mills.

“I didn’t play with someone like Tiger or Phil, but I played with a lot of good players and a lot of guys I watched as a kid growing up. I felt totally comfortable with them, but it can be a distraction. Obviously, everyone’s different,” he said, adding it’s different outside the ropes, too.

“The higher level you’re at, the less guys spend a lot of time together because they’ve got their families around. It’s a job, so they spend a lot of time focused on that,” he said.

Mills says exemptions into the RBC Canadian Open for developing players helps them get a brief taste of tour life. It’s good experience, but just a taste of what faces them once they become regulars.

Once the season gets underway, a rookie can understand how a high school or college graduate feels entering the workforce. Potential employers want experience, but how do you get experience, if nobody will give you a job?

The same holds true for newcomers to the tour. They’re trying to make money, but they can’t make money because they are often low on the priority list for getting into tournaments.

“It’s a tough deal,” said Mills, adding that some years are better than others for getting into early season West Coast events.

“You’re excited you finish the Web.com Tour in the top 25, but realistically, if you’re not in the top 10, you’re going to miss a lot of early events, unless you try to Monday qualify,” he said.

The first goal is to try to make enough money to earn upward mobility on tour reshuffles that take place about every six weeks, but a newcomer might get into the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and Pebble Beach in February, but spend most of his time as an alternate.

“You’re not sure if you’re going to play an event and you go in at the start of the week on Monday and you’re out by 15 (positions),” Mills said.

“You’re like, ‘No way I’m going to go.’ All of a sudden, on Wednesday, you’re second alternate,” he said, adding that happened to him a couple of times this year on the Web.com Tour.

“The first time it happened, I flew to Salt Lake City as first alternate, waited all Thursday morning in case someone withdrew and no one did, so I didn’t get in and flew home,” said Mills.

Not only did he waste an airline ticket and money for a rental car and hotel, it was also a missed opportunity to get some action and make some money. The fewer chances you do get, the more likely you are to feel the pressure each time you can tee it up.

“That’s where you’ve got to stay patient. My first year, I really wasn’t that patient. I’d get into events and I was pushing it,” Mills said.

“Towards the middle and the late season, you start playing all these events, not taking weeks off. For me, that does not work. Some guys are different, but that’s how I work. You’re never going to succeed by having a thought process like that and trying to force things,” he said.

Once the elation of making it wears off, the reality sets in that you’re starting at the bottom, just as you did several times before you got there.


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