Pro turns amateur, plays golf for fun

He was a golfing All-American at UNLV, and after that he had a nice little run on the PGA Tour and made a million dollars. One year, he finished tied for 24th in the U.S. Open, one of three times he played in it.

So, Edward Fryatt has been to the top of the mountain in pro golf, or at least he could see it from the 24th spot on the leaderboard at Congressional Country Club.

That was in 1997, when galleries were huge, and a guy would lift one of those boards that said QUIET PLEASE every time he shot.

On Saturday, I watched Ed Fryatt play the last three holes of his round at the Southern Nevada Golf Association’s Henderson Open at Revere Golf Club. His gallery consisted of a guy looking for a story, two course marshals in a cart, four cottontail rabbits on the 17th tee box and two chaparrals on 18.

Nobody put up a QUIET PLEASE sign as the amateur golfers lined up their shots, but the rabbits and roadrunners were respectful.

It has been a little while since Ed Fryatt was teeing it up with the greats of the game, but I’m sure it doesn’t seem that long to him. Nor to me. I told him I must have spent 10 years typing his name into the sports briefs on weekends; he said he’s sure he still has those clippings in a box in the closet or garage.

Fryatt, who was born in England but doesn’t follow soccer that much despite his father, Jim, having played many years as a pro, played in 32 PGA Tour events in 2000. He finished third once and had five top 10s, and earned $611,209. In 2001, he played 31 times, had two top 10s, won $572,820. In 2002, he missed the cut in 23 of 34 PGA tournaments while earning $225,823.

Then his game pretty much fell off a cliff.

What happened?

Was there an injury?

Did he get burned out, or hire a new coach who messed with his swing?

Was he promised total consciousness by the Dalai Lama before taking his game to the Tibetan Tour?

Fryatt said people ask about it all the time. It was none of that (although he did win four times on the Asian Tour). He wasn’t hurt; he didn’t get burned out.

What happened to him happens to a lot of guys on tour: You start to press a little bit, and the next thing you know you lose your card and your playing privileges.

There are no guaranteed contracts in golf, Ed Fryatt says. This isn’t baseball, where if you strike out or pop up with the bases loaded, you still get paid. You don’t whiff in golf, unless it’s at the British Open, and the rough is really, really high. But when you pop up enough times, they send you back to Q school.

You have a solid rookie year on Tour as he did, all it means is that you get to come back next year.

So when Fryatt started to press and his game fell off a cliff, he left the woods and irons scattered on the hillside for about 10 years.

He became an insurance agent.

He stopped playing golf altogether.

Well, maybe he played in a scramble once or twice a year with buddies or the other insurance agents. But that was it, until last July, when one day he started chipping balls in his backyard for no apparent reason.

It must have felt good.

Ed Fryatt applied to get his amateur status back, which was easy, he said, because he hadn’t played golf in 10 years and his woods and irons still were scattered on the hillside.

When he started playing 36-hole golf in the SNGA, he did so without ambition or expectation. It was mostly just something to do, he said.

After four events, he’s sitting atop the SNGA Player of the Year leaderboard.

Most of the time, he’s having fun.

When I was watching Saturday, Fryatt missed the fairway on 16 and flipped his club away. On 17, he sank a birdie putt from the fringe and pumped his fist.

It may be amateur golf, but when you have played with professionals, the best pros in the world, and have finished tied for 24th at the U.S. Open — and shot 69 on the final day, same as Ernie Els, the guy who won — the competitive fire never really dies.

It just gets placed on the back burner until one day you start chipping balls in the backyard.

Fryatt is 43, and maybe in seven years he’ll try to make some more money on the Champions Tour. And maybe he won’t. There’s no ambition. There’s no expectation.

After a long, self-imposed hiatus from golf, Ed Fryatt is back to playing it. He’s playing in short pants now, in front of rabbits and roadrunners, where the winner receives a gift certificate and a free hot dog on 15, if the hot dog girl doesn’t go home early.

But playing golf is fun again, at least most of the time, which is more than Tiger Woods can say at the moment.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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