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Gander native is going through the grind that comes with being an entry-level professional
Blair Bursey’s been around golf long enough now to know the game is a grind — a mental meatgrinder every round, and a physical undertaking hopping from one tournament to the next weekly.
But he’s soaking up the experience.
Bursey, the Gander golfer fresh off an NCAA career at Utah Valley University, is cutting his teeth as a pro these days.
It ain’t easy, but he’s ready for the challenge.
Bursey is trying to break into the rebranded Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, once known simply as the Canadian Tour.
He received conditional Tour status just over a month ago at Q School out on Vancouver Island. Conditional status means exactly that — you kind of have Tour status, and you don’t.
What it means is Bursey will have all access to travel discounts (airfare, hotels, car rentals), and he’ll have free access to all TPC (Tournament Players Course) golf courses to play and practice.
“If I move to Jacksonville (Florida) or Phoenix, I can train out of TPC Sawgrass or Scottsdale or any other TPC pro courses,” Bursey said.
“Every one of those courses has a separate facility on the other end of the range just for Tour players. It’s quite nice, quite convenient.”
But as part of the ‘conditional’ status, Bursey will have to qualify for any event he hopes to enter this season. That means there will be many Monday qualifiers on his agenda as he travels to and from his home base in Ottawa this summer.
He missed out qualifying for the Canada Life Open in Vancouver and Bayview Place DCBank Open in Victoria, B.C., with rounds of five-over and four-over in Monday qualifiers.
This weekend, he’s entered in the New Hampshire Open championship.
“You’ve got 140 guys playing for four or five spots,” Bursey said. “You have to be ready for it, and gradually as the years goes by, each Monday, generally speaking, has fewer guys (looking to qualify).
“How many Americans are going to fly up to Winnipeg in the middle of summer, or to Halifax, to try and get in a Canadian event?
“The first few tournaments are always saturated, for sure, on Mondays. But that’s pro golf in a nutshell.”
In addition to the PGA Tour Canada stuff, Bursey will be mixing in some U.S. State Opens, like the one in New Hampshire. He plans to play in similar events in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
They’re kind of the like the Newfoundland Amateur, he said, except it’s pro, and there’s quite a turnout and quite a purse.
Bursey played in the Utah Open as an amateur, which featured a top prize of about $25,000.
Bursey isn’t thrilled with his showing at Q School, where he finished 40th out of 120 hopefuls, lamenting he brought only his ‘C’ game to Courtenay, B.C.
‘I was a ticking time bomb’
Then again, when you consider what he overcame after Christmas, that he’s even swinging a club could be perceived as a positive.
While home for the holidays, Bursey took “super” sick on Dec. 23. Three hospital visits later, he was admitted on Christmas eve with a stomach so bloated he had the appearance of a pregnant woman.
He underwent a battery of tests, which revealed infection and the threat of going septic, so he was prepped for surgery. He came out of the OR 11:30 p.m. Christmas eve, and awoke 5 a.m. Christmas morning.
“I was a ticking time bomb,” he said. “If I hadn’t been operated on that night, I might have been toast.
“I’m extremely, extremely lucky.”
Following a nine-day stay in hospital, Bursey returned at home, and it would be mid-March before he was able to do anything comfortably.
That’s when he headed to Phoenix to start training and preparing for Canada’s Q School. It was in Arizona he won his first pro event, the Orange Tree Championship in Scottsdale, on something known as Outlaw Tour.
“My development has been pretty sharp since then,” her said, “even though I missed out on two-and-a-half months of training.
“I didn’t get to Phoenix until March 15, practised for a week and a half and then started playing tournaments.
“It wasn’t an ideal preparation, but I made the most of my situation. I got a lot better in a very short period of time.”
One of Bursey’s goals this summer is to play, and play a lot.
When he’s not vying for a PGA Canada Tour event or U.S. state Open tournament, Bursey will fill the gap in his schedule by playing some events on the Great Lakes Tour in the Toronto area.
“They’re not the strongest things in the world, but they’re still golf tournaments,” he said.
“I need a bit of desperation to get some status on an established Tour, and along with that, get some experience. I’ve only played probably 10 events as a pro. I’m still pretty new to this and still getting my feet wet.
“The goal is to be ready for European Tour Q School in the fall.”
You get the feeling Bursey will indeed be prepared.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort