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Rutledge earns Champions Tour card for 2012

Fri, 18 Nov 2011 19:57:38

by Lorne Rubenstein

I've been watching the leaderboard in the final round of the Champions Tour qualifying school as closely as I've been watching the telecast of the third session of play in the Presidents Cup. And there's terrific news: Victoria, B.C.'s Jim Rutledge has won his fully exempt status for the 2012 season by finishing T-2 in the tournament at the TPC of Scottsdale. Only the top five qualify. That's a tough assignment.

Rutledge, 52, shot a final round 68 to finish at 16-under-par 268, four shots behind winner Jeff Freeman. He finished birdie, bogey, birdie, par to shoot 35 on the back nine and get on to the Champions Tour. Rutledge has tried some 20 times to get through qualifying school to earn fully exempt status on either the PGA Tour or Champions Tour.

Now he's made it. Rutledge did get on to the 2007 PGA Tour after finishing 14th on the 2006 Nationwide Tour. But he made only five of 23 cuts and lost his exempt status. He was the second-oldest rookie that year on the PGA Tour.

Rut, as everybody knows him, has long had one of the sweetest swings in the game. He finished 51st on the Champions Tour's money list this year, with $297,666, which meant a trip back to q-school. He opened with a 68, and followed with 62, 70, and his final-round 68 when the heat was on.

There's only one word that applies here: Congratulations to one of the nicest guys in the game, and a golfer whose best season ever could be ahead of him.

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