After toiling in golf’s minor leagues since turning pro in 2000, Brad Fritsch of Ottawa is off to the big-league PGA Tour.
The 34-year-old’s perseverance paid off Sunday when he earned his card to compete full-time on the world’s best and most lucrative tour next year.
Fritsch tied for ninth place Sunday at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship in McKinney, Tex., which pushed him to 18th spot on the second-tier circuit’s season money list.
The top 25 graduated to the PGA Tour for 2013.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., nearly joined Fritsch, falling just one shot short of grabbing the last PGA Tour card available.
The 24-year-old rookie, needing a win or runner-up finish to jump into the top 25 on the money list, tied for third place after a spectacular final-round charge that featured six birdies and a score of six-under-par 65.
Fritsch and Hadwin reportedly stayed together this past week in a $39-a-night hotel room and could have headed off to the PGA Tour together next January in Hawaii.
But even without Hadwin, Fritsch will bolster a Canadian contingent on the PGA Tour that includes David Hearn, Graham DeLaet, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.
Fritsch, who now makes him home in Holly Springs, N.C., is the first Ottawa native to make it to the PGA Tour.
The burly veteran’s journey to the top level over the past decade wound through Canada as a regular on the PGA Tour Canada (formerly Canadian Tour), various U.S. mini-tours and more recently the Web.com Tour.
He’s made 95 career Web.com starts but it wasn’t until this season that he really came into his own. While he didn’t win in any of his 26 appearances this year, he posted seven top-10 results and amassed $212,168 (U.S.) in winnings – his biggest one-year haul as a pro.
It all culminated Sunday with Fritsch being presented his 2013 PGA Tour card and a hand-engraved Tiffany & Co. money clip in a ceremony at TPC Craig Ranch.
Justin Bolli won the Web.com Tour Championship, with a 72-hole total of 16-under 268. He was one of three players to begin the season finale outside the top 25 and play his way in. (Fellow Americans Morgan Hoffman and Doug Labelle II were the others.)
Hadwin tied for third place at 13 under.
A birdie on the last hole put him temporarily into second place with two others – and into 25th place on the money list.
But minutes later, American James Hahn also made a birdie on the par-five 18th hole, with Hadwin and Fritsch watching anxiously from beside the green, to seize second place alone and bump Hadwin and Hoffman to a share of third.
Wearing a red shirt with a Vancouver Canucks logo and with his once shaggy hair clipped short, Hadwin made a valiant charge Sunday but was left to rue the three putts he took on the 14th hole after driving the short par-four’s green.
His only consolation is that by finishing inside the top 40 on the money list, he gets a direct pass to the third and final stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament (Q-school) at the end of November.
This gives him another chance to reach the PGA Tour; the top 25 finishers there will also advance to the PGA Tour in 2013.
Richard Scott of Kingsville, Ont., tied for 55th Sunday to fall to No. 53 on the money list from No. 50. He’s destined for Q-school’s second stage.