Jim Rutledge is heading back to the Champions Tour as a full-time member in 2013.
For the second straight year, the 53-year-old Victoria, B.C. golfer managed to survive another qualifying school on Friday and claim one of five full time Tour cards.
Rutlege had four birdies and a pair of bogeys at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs for a final round 71, which left him in a tie for fourth with four other golfers. With only the top five earning exempt status, a playoff was needed and Rutledge made birdie on the first playoff hole to secure his card.
"This was not an easy week," Rutledge told the Vancouver Sun. "This was hell, not unlike any other Tour school. I've managed to get through the last two of these. Now I would like to avoid the next one."
Gene Jones of Orlando, Fla., shot a final-round 2-under 70 to post a three-stroke victory and claim medalist honors. Jones finished with a 72-hole total of 13-under-par while rookie Jeff Brehaut of Los Altos, Calif. finished second.
Brehaut won't turn 50 until June 13 and as a result he will have to wait nearly six months before making his Champions Tour debut.
Mark Mouland of Wales finished third at 7-under par. John Riegger, who also needed a playoff to finish in the top five, will also have to wait until June before making his debut as he has not turned 50 yet. Ironically, Brehaut and Riegger share the same birthday - June 13.
Chie-Hsieng Lin of Taiwan and Esteban Toledo finished sixth and seventh, respectively, following the playoff but will be fully exempt until June before Brehaut and Riegger gain their status.
Five other players - Anders Forsbrand, Neal Lancaster, Jeff Freeman, T.C. Wang of Taiwan and Steve Jones - all earned conditionally-exempt status for 2013.
Rod Spittle finished in a tie for 19th at 2-under par after a round of 73. After being a full time member on the Tour the past two seasons, the Niagara Falls, Ont. golfer will now be eligible to enter the weekly Monday qualifiers in order to get into Champions Tour events next season.
Dave Wettlaufer (74) of Kitchener, Ont., finished tied for 35th, Marc Girouard (74) of Saint-Sauver, Que., finished tied for 57th and Ahmad Bateman (75) of Windsor, Ont., finished tied for 75th. All three will not have any status on the Champions Tour next season.
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