As Martin Kaymer giving Tiger Woods a taste of things to come in the Dubai Desert Classic, the German’s former foursomes partner Florian Fritsch was scorching to a nine-under par 62 to win the El Valle Open on the slightly less glamorous Hi5 Pro Tour in Spain.
Fritsch triumphed by a stroke from overnight leader Miguel Angel Martin (73) and Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell (70), who birdied his final three holes to finish alongside the Spaniard on 10 under par.
What’s remarkable about Fritsch is not the seven consecutive birdies he fired from the fourth to the 10th to set up his victory but the way he tied for sixth at the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage last December, knowing that if he earned his card he would be hard pressed to keep it due to his morbid fear of flying.
One can only hope that he has found a way of coping with his problem before the European leg of the season gets underway in the middle of March. But looking at his schedule on his website and his failure to travel to South Africa or the Middle East so far this season, it appears that air travel is out of the question for the moment.
Morocco, Sicily, Ireland and the UK are the only “overseas” destinations listed and he can get to those events by ferry.
As he explained at PGA Golf de Catalunya last year:
I played well on the Challenge Tour but didn’t play well at Q School. This year I got out and I’m afraid of flying and it got to the point where I had to stop playing. I quit at the beginning of the year because I didn’t want t play anymore. It was decreasing my quality of life so much that I though it wasn’t worth it. I took up another job for eight months using my college training in sports management – partial coaching and managing at a golf club – but realised it wasn’t for me. I became a vegetable. My brain was totally empty. I decided to play the last few events and played well in Toulouse finishing fifth and played quite well in general thought it was only a matter of time before it came together because the only thing letting me down was my putting, I changed something on the back nine yesterday and it worked. I decided to go back to Q School and got through second stage and we’ll see what happens. I’m not aiming for anything. I was so result orientated before so I’m not even thinking about it. I don’t care where the ball goes this week or what i shoot. It was a nice round today and that proves what I’m doing is right. Before I’d get nervous if I was shooting low, or in the lead. I couldn’t hit the ball anymore. My time away made me grow up as a golfer and a human being. That’s played it’s part.
I’ve not been on a plane since March. I drove here from Germany. It took a day which was not fun but at least I can get here. I’ve not looked at the entry statistics for tournaments but i’ll not be going anywhere east if I get my card. My primary thing even if I get a card – which will be nice to play these tournaments – will be to get rid of the fear of flying. I can be able to enter all the tournaments I want but without be able to fly I can’t play. So without taking care of that a tour card from here is worthless. Right now I’ve got to get a card but I need to sort that out. I;ve been working with people. I see the planes taking off over here- every few minutes and I think I might as well be on them. I’ve never had a problem before. It just suddenly came on. Hopefully it will work out.
As for his friendship with Kaymer, he said:
We played foursomes together in the European [Team] Championship. What he has achieved is phenomenal. It’s about time – we are the second biggest golfing nation. We have a lot of good players out here and I think the next five years will be very good for Germany. We’ve got a good bunch of players who have successfully competed at amateur level. Martin has show it is impossible. Bernhard Langer was way out there but with Martin we have someone we can relate to. He partied like us, hit bad shots like us, we’ve seen him play and actually beaten him. So it’s something to relate to. That will contribute to our success.
Hats off to Fritsch for his victory and also to Caldwell, who has struggled to find consistency in his game since he lost the tour card he earned at the 2008 Q-School.
Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw finished ninth on six under after a 70 with Neil O’Briain (73) tied 26th on one over and Mick McGeady (73) a shot further back.
Castle’s Dara Lernihan finished at the back of the field on eight over after a closing 76.