It's a long way to the top of any profession, but perhaps more so in the world of professional golf. Not only are you trying to rise through the ranks of a globally competitive sport, you're trying to rise through the ranks of a game that has frustrated every single human being to ever pick up a club and swing.
When Ottawa, Ont., native Brad Fritsch drops the puck ahead of tonight's game between the Sens and Rangers, it will be just another step forward in his gradual ascent through the ranks of professional golf.
With Fritsch earning his PGA Tour Card in late 2012, he not only became the first player from the Capital Region to earn a shot on golf's biggest stage, he is the only member of the tour to play with the logo of his hometown hockey team on his shirt and bag.
Every time Brad enters a tee box, you can see the Ottawa Senators logo right there with him.
In many ways it's fitting the first time card holder will be grinding his way through a PGA season in an effort to stay on the tour. The logo he sports has come to represent a team defined by its work ethic and ability to succeed against long odds.
Fritsch was admittedly nervous about the jump to the PGA Tour — you never know how you're going to perform on-stage until you get up there. His focus each time out is simply managing the emotions and letting his muscle memory do the work. That's where he stands now with his game on the tour.
"My game can take care of itself if I can take care of the nerves and the atmosphere," Fritsch said.
So far, so good.
He earned a top-10 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open back in January and was fighting with one Tiger Woods for leaderboard position at various parts of the tournament. Fritsch lists, "Playing in front of Tiger for two days and seeing the crowd he draws," as a definite 'Welcome to the PGA' moment.
You'd be hard pressed to blame him there.
Moments like that are what have made his experience in the PGA so surreal to this point. In many ways, regardless of how his career unfolds, Fritsch will go down as an inspiration for pro golfers trying to make it everywhere. After 12 years of perseverance and many moments where throwing in the towel seemed like the only option, he fought through it all and eventually hit the big time.
"I want to to show people that all it takes is one weekend, one tournament," said Fritsch.
Was it worth it? Well, you decide. When asked about the nicest parts of playing on The Tour he said, "The cars are free now and the food is better."
Sounds pretty worth it.
The thought that Fritsch may only be scratching the surface of his career's potential is a truly exciting one. Not only is he already asserting himself nicely with the big boys, he has already had plenty of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities come his way. On top of teeing off in front of Tiger Woods and dropping the puck at tonight's Sens game, Fritsch is also going to be the prime model for Levelwear Apparel's golf collection.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have a clothing line," said Fritsch. "It's pretty cool."
The Senators will be playing a front and centre role in his journey going forward as one of his lead sponsors. Whenever you see Fritsch tee off on the tour, the Senators will be with him every step of the way, both on his bag and embroidered over his heart.
While he admits he may not be able to enlist every hockey loving PGA fan in the Sens Army, he's hoping he can bring Ottawa Senators hockey to more and more people.
"I love wearing the logo."
You'll often hear Senators' Head Coach Paul MacLean talk about simply wanting his players to "be themselves" when they take the ice. As you hear Fritsch talk about his adjustment to the PGA Tour, you can't help but think he and the current incarnation of the Senators are a perfect fit after all.
"I've re-affirmed that the stage isn't going to be a problem," said Fritsch. "I just need to play my game."
So long as he does that, you'll be hearing about Brad Fritsch for a long time yet.
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