Short Game: South America is Parr's new frontier
Andrew Parr has some new territory to conquer in his nomadic life as a touring golf professional.
The 29-year-old from London, Ont., qualified for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica on Friday by finishing in the top 20 at the circuit's qualifying school in Peru.
Parr needed a birdie on his final hole at La Planicie Country Club to get into a tie for 18th place and lock up his card. He finished 72 holes at two-under-par 286, eight shots behind Q-school winner Jose Toledo of Guatemala.
Parr played on the European Tour and its developmental circuit, the Challenge Tour, last year, stopping in countries as far flung as Malaysia, South Africa, Finland, Norway and Portugal. He's also played in Canada and the United States.
As a member of the Latinoamerica tour, he'll be eligible to play in its 2013 events, which run in the spring and fall in Mexico and countries throughout South America. The tour, owned and run by the top-tier PGA Tour, is a developmental and feeder circuit for the second-tier Web.com Tour.
In a quick e-mail Friday night, Parr said he plans to play a full schedule on the Latinoamerica. "It's the best way to the [PGA] tour at this point."
Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alta., didn't make it into the top 20 Friday. The PGA Tour Canada regular tied for 43rd spot at four-over par, six shots away from his card.
The Latinoamerica tour holds another Q-school this month in Florida. Eight Canadians (Peter Campbell, Adam Cornelson, Billy Houle, Derek Gillespie, Matt Johnston, Tai Gyu Kang, David Markle and Jace Walker) are entered in the field at Sebring Golf Club in Sebring, Fla.
They'll be among the 132 players vying for another 20 Latinoamerica cards.
GO KO GO: Fifteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko has surged into a share of the lead at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, putting himself in position to win her third professional tournament.
The New Zealand teenager, whose titles include the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open, shot four-under 68 on Saturday to reach six under after two rounds.
She shares the lead with Seon Woo Bae of South Korea heading into the final round at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch on Sunday.
Sara Maude Juneau of Fossambault, Que., missed the cut by one shot despite shooting a 71 Saturday that included birdies on the final two holes.
Lorie Kane of Charlottetown also failed to reach the final round. She placed fourth at the event last year.
Both Juneau and Kane will stay Down Under for the LPGA Tour’s season opener, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, next week.
ASIA BOUND: Richard T. Lee has earned his playing card on the upstart OneAsia Tour.
The 22-year-old from Vancouver finished the circuit’s Q-school in Malaysia on Friday as the runner-up, two shots behind medalist Akinori Tani of Japan.
He surged into second on the strength of an eight-under 63 in the final round at Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club. That was a Q-school best.
His runner-up finish means he’ll get into most, if not all, tournaments on the tour, which began in 2009 as a competitor to the more-established Asian Tour.
Lee, born in Canada to South Korean parents, also earned his card on the Asian Tour at its Q-school in Thailand last month.
His opportunities in Asia might prompt him to relocate there, he told the OneAsia’s website.
“I’ll talk it over with my parents,” said Lee, who turned pro after competing in the U.S. Open as a 17-year-old in 2007.
“On the Asian Tour you have to go step-by-step and play well to get in the big ones, but here [OneAsia] there is a lot more money and it looks a lot more competitive. Basically I'll try to follow the money.”
Lee played on the U.S.-based Web.com Tour during the past four years, based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., but didn’t retain his card last season.
MAJOR CHALLENGE: World No. 1 amateur Lydia Ko is starting to fill out her schedule for the 2013 golf season.
The New Zealand teenager will play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, the LPGA Tour major announced Thursday.
She was one of seven amateurs named to the field.
Whether she’ll defend her title at the CN Canadian Women’s Open is still up in the air but signs are positive.
Tournament director Sean Van Kesteren said Thursday by e-mail that he is “expecting Lydia to join us,” but she has not formally committed yet. Van Kesteren expects to have an answer by early spring.
Canada’s national championship is scheduled to begin Aug. 22 at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton.
First up, though, the 15-year-old Ko is playing in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open this week.
The New Zealand Women’s Open is co-sanctioned by the women’s European and Australian tours.
The LPGA Tour launches its season next week Down Under, at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Juneau and Kane are expected to play there as well, and are to be joined by fellow Canadians Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Maude-Aimee LeBlanc and Stephanie Sherlock.
ON THE BUBBLE: Andrew Parr of London, Ont., is in position to earn his Latinoamerica tour card on Friday, but just barely.
The PGA Tour Canada regular was tied for 20th place at the circuit’s qualifying school in Lima, Peru, after the third round Thursday.
The top 20 finishers after play ends Friday get their cards.
Parr, who is at one-under 215 after shooting 73 Thursday, was 10 shots behind leader Oscar Serna of Mexico.
Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alta., also shot 73 Thursday. He was tied for 39th place at two over, three shots out of the top 20.
The Latinoamerica is a third-tier circuit owned and run by the PGA Tour. It’s on about the same level as the PGA Tour Canada.
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Jim Rutledge will make his season debut on the Champions Tour on Friday at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Victoria native, 53, is beginning his second full season on the senior circuit.
Last year, he had six top-25 finishes in 20 starts and earned $270,000 (U.S.), which put him 49th on the money list.
With only the top 30 money winners keeping full-time status, Rutledge headed back to qualifying school, where he finished in the top five to regain his card for 2013.
Rocco Mediate, Bart Bryant and Chie-Hisang Lin are making their Champions Tour debut.
Rutledge is grouped with Lin, a fellow Q-school graduate, and Sonny Skinner during the first round Friday at The Old Course at Broken Sound.
STEADY START: Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., couldn’t have started his Sunshine Tour debut much better – he birdied the first hole Thursday in the first round of the Joburg Open.
The 23-year-old, a PGA Tour Canada player, made two other birdies on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s East course but gave the shots back with a bogey and double bogey.
His even-par 72 left him in a tie for 117th place, eight shots behind first-round co-leaders Richard Sterne of South Africa and Maximilian Kieffer of Germany.
Sterne won the tournament in 2008 and is coming off a runner-up finish at the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic last weekend.
Both Sterne and Kieffer were playing the on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s West course, the second of two layouts used for the Joburg Open.
But Gligic’s solid play didn’t continue into the second round Friday. He shot three-over 75 on the club’s West course to miss the cut. Sterne maintained the lead after the second round, sharing it with Trevor Fisher Jr., who surged up the board by shooting 62. Both were at 15 under heading into weekend play.
AT HOME ON TOUR: Rookie Brad Fritsch has been a PGA Tour regular for just a month, but he’s already feeling comfortable.
The 35-year-old from Ottawa said in an interview with Sportsnet The Fan 590 on Wednesday night that he hasn’t been nervous in his first four starts.
“I just feel like I belong out there,” he told Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports show. “There is no reason to be nervous.”
His results have shown it.
Fritsch made the cut in his first three starts on the year before failing to reach weekend play at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week.
In the three finishes, he produced his best career PGA Tour finish (a tie for ninth spot at the Farmers Insurance Open) and has amassed $184,000 (U.S.) in earnings.
The quick start follows a strong 2012, in which he won his card by finishing 18th on the Web.com Tour money list and then upgraded his status by tying for seventh place at the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament.
“I’ve just continued to play the same,” Fritsch said, speaking from California, where he’s playing this week in the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I’ve been playing well since about the end of August. I think what’s different for me is I haven’t let the stage change my game. I haven’t felt nervous, I haven’t felt out of place.”
Of the 51 players who graduated from the Web.com Tour and Q-school last year, just seven (Sony Open winner Russell Henley, Billy Horshel, James Hahn, David Lingmerth, Scott Langley and Nicholas Thompson) have won more money than Fritsch.
At the AT&T, he’s teaming with rock singer Huey Lewis in the pro-am portion of the event.
They begin Thursday morning at Monterey Peninsula’s Shore course, one of three layouts used in the tournament. (Fritsch described the Shore as “excellent.”) They move on to Spyglass Hill on Friday and Pebble Beach on Saturday.
FACE OFF: Fritsch will return to his hometown to drop the puck at an Ottawa Senators game on Feb. 21 against the New York Rangers, ScoreGolf magazine editor Jason Logan reports.
Fritsch has that week off because he’s not eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
The Senators are close to Fritsch’s heart, literally. He wears the team’s logo on his shirts under a sponsorship deal with the NHL club.
KEEPING THE FAITH: Mike Weir admitted in a revealing television interview this week that he’s experienced a lot of frustration and disappointment as he’s tried to return to his former playing form.
But he’s never given up hope or desire.
“I still feel like I have a lot to play for,” Weir said in a sit-down interview with Tim Rosaforte of Golf Channel. “I still feel like I have a lot to play for. I feel like I can accomplish some really good things. If I didn’t feel that, if I didn’t feel that passion to keep going after it, I wouldn’t.
“I’ve been there. I’ve gone from nowhere to winning a major championship. So, I’ve climbed that mountain [before].”
The eight-time PGA Tour winner from Sarnia, Ont., injured his elbow in 2010 and his game gradually deteriorated. He eventually had surgery in 2011.
He hadn’t made a PGA Tour cut in 17 starts before reaching weekend play last month at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Weir told Rosaforte that the 10th anniversary of his Masters victory doesn’t motivate him to work so hard on his comeback. But his two children do.
He wants to show them he’s a “tough guy” and that adversity in life can be overcome.
Weir couldn’t say how far along he is in his comeback but he senses he is playing better, and the scores show it. He won’t feel fully back, he added, until he feels comfortable on every shot and is in contention.
CREAMER OF THE CROP: Stephanie Sherlock had a nice finish at a SunCoast Ladies Series event in Orlando on Wednesday. She tied for third place and pocketed $1,100.
But she and the rest of the field were outclassed by the winner. No wonder. It was world No. 13 and LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer.
The American made a rare start on the mini-tour to sharpen her game ahead of the LPGA Tour season.
Creamer set a course record of seven-under 65 at Orange Tree Country Club to finish the 54-hole event at 11-under 205.
She was 11 shots better than runner-up Yuki Sakurai of Japan and 15 better than Sherlock, who’s entering her second year on the LPGA Tour.
Natalie Gleadall of Stratford, Ont., tied for 11th place at 13 over and Danielle Mills of Pointe-Claire, Que., shared 18th. Nicole Vandermade of Brantford, Ont., and amateur Brogan McKinnon of Mississauga were among a group of four in 30th, and Ellen O’Brien was 39th.
Creamer said she needed a competitive environment to get ready for the LPGA Tour season. She’s skipping the opener in Australia next week and will make her debut the following week in Thailand.
“The reason I play is I’m not going to Australia next week, and I wanted to get a scorecard in my hand and get a tournament under my belt before starting the LPGA season,” Creamer told Randall Mell of golfchannel.com.
The mini-tour couldn't have been happier to have her. “It’s nice to see a player of her stature in our event,” Tour director Scott Walker tells golfchannel.com. “It’s good for the players who aren’t as established to play with her and see how they compare.”
MOVIN’ ON UP: Andrew Parr of London, Ont., moved up seven spots on the leader board to a tie for 16th Wednesday at the Latinoamerica tour’s qualifying school.
Parr, a PGA Tour Canada regular, shot two-under-par 70 at La Planacie Country Club in Lima, Peru, to bring his score after two rounds to two-under 142.
He’s 10 shots behind leader Oscar Serna of Mexico.
The top 20 after play ends Friday earn playing cards on the Latinoamerica, a third-tier circuit owned by the PGA Tour.
Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alta., shot 73 and dropped into a share of 37th place. At 145, he was a couple of strokes outside the top 20 heading into the third round.
CHASING THE DREAM: Here’s a young Canadian player you might not know but it is worth following this year: Michael Gligic. The lanky 23-year-old from Burlington, Ont., is in South Africa this week to compete in the Joburg Open, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine and European tours.
Play begins Thursday. Gligic is the lone Canadian in the field, although Alan McLean, a Scot who lives in London, Ont., also earned a start by tying for second place in the Joburg Open’s Monday qualifier.
The tournament is a big step up for Gligic, who has played mostly on the Great Lakes Tour (a mini-tour based in Southwestern Ontario that he has dominated) and the PGA Tour Canada. He had a breakout year in 2012 on the Canadian circuit, wining once and posting two other top-10 finishes to place second on the money list.
His performance gave him a spot in the second stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying school last fall and caught the eye of RBC Canadian Open organizers, who offered him a place in the field.
At the Joburg Open, he’ll face a decent field that includes 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and defending champion Branden Grace, a young South African who busted out last year with four international victories.
South Africa might seem a long way for Gligic to go to compete, but he is following the same path as fellow Canadians Graham DeLaet and Adam Hadwin, who both in recent years took their careers to higher levels by playing and performing well on the Sunshine Tour.
LATIN FLAVOUR: Gligic isn’t the only Canadian chasing his dream this week in a far-off land. Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alta., and Andrew Parr of London, Ont., are both in Peru for the LatinoAmerica tour’s qualifying school.
The PGA Tour Canada regulars are trying to play their way onto the minor-league, 15-event Latin circuit. In the first round of the Q-school Tuesday, both Mezei and Parr shot even-par 72 and were tied for 25th place. Jose Toledo of Argentina led at seven-under 65.
The top 20 finishers after plays ends Friday at Planicie Country Club in Lima earn full-time status.
The LatinoAmerica and PGA Tour Canada are owned and run by the PGA Tour, and are seen as feeder circuits for the second-tier Web.com Tour.
The schedules of the Latin and Canadian tours are set up so that players who qualify for both could play a full year of starts.
LatinoAmerica has events in the spring and fall, the PGA Tour Canada currently offers seven stops in the summer.
THE GREAT ONE: The Canadian contingent at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week is small: just Brad Fritsch and Mike Weir.
But they’re not the only Canucks who’ll be roaming the fairways at fabled Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula’s Shore course with a club in his hand.
Wayne Gretzky will play in the celebrity portion of the old Clam Bake.
The Great One is the lone Canadian and hockey player of note in the celeb field that includes funny man Bill Murray, NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Andy Roddick, who has more time for golf now that he’s retired from competitive tennis.
Gretzky is no stranger to celebrity pro-ams. He has played at Pebble Beach before (with Mike Weir 10 years ago, they played in the final group on Sunday) and he once played host to the Web.com Tour’s now-defunct Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic.
He’s also no stranger to Pebble Beach. He shot 100 on the seaside links in the 2010 Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, an exhibition to test whether a 10-handicapper could break 100 on a U.S. Open course.
Gretzky will be paired with Dustin Johnson. It’s not the first Gretzky-Johnson union. Johnson has been dating the Great One’s daughter, Paulina; the couple were widely photographed together when Johnson was playing in Hawaii in January.