U.S. MID-AMATEUR
Former Tour Pro Fryatt Enjoying Rebirth as an Amateur September 11, 2016 | Elverson, Pa. By Dave Shedloski

Watching the 2014 U.S. Senior Open got former pro Edward Fryatt excited about playing golf again. (USGA/Chris Keane) 

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As a mountain-biking enthusiast, Edward Fryatt admits he might have been no better than an 18-handicapper, to put it in golf terms. For 10 years he rode recreationally and competitively, and while he seldom had an opportunity to win – or even finish near the top – he never felt anything but a sense of satisfaction.

“There is never a bad day mountain biking. I always had a good time on a bike. I was fit and healthy and I enjoyed it immensely,” said Fryatt, a former PGA Tour player who was reinstated as an amateur in 2013. “In golf you often walk away disappointed. It’s the nature of the game. It’s hard.”

So why did Fryatt return to competitive golf after going a decade without touching a club?

“I still ask myself that,” he said with a brief smile. “I don’t know. I guess it’s because I once was good at the game, and when you play golf well there is perhaps no better feeling of accomplishment.”

Fryatt, 45, definitely felt disappointed Sunday after two days of stroke play in the 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall. A double bogey on the final hole sealed his fate as he added a 5-over 75 on the Old Course to his opening 76 for a 36-hole total of 11-over 151, on the wrong side of the match-play cut.

“I was playing halfway decently coming in, but in a USGA event, you know that decent isn’t going to be good enough,” said Fryatt. “This type of setup is going to expose every weakness you have. Obviously, I had some issues this week. But I still enjoyed being here. It’s an honor anytime you play in a USGA championship.”

A native of Rochdale, England, Fryatt was competing in his 10th USGA championship  and second since returning to golf two years ago. It actually was a USGA championship that inspired him to pick up a club again after his “forced retirement” in 2004 – more on that later.

Fryatt was watching the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., and saw his old tour caddie Tim “Smiley” Thalmueller on the bag of Gene Sauers, who was leading after 54 holes. Sauers eventually lost in a playoff to Colin Montgomerie, but Fryatt enjoyed seeing his old friend on television.

“I went outside to the garage, and my wife thought I was washing my bike,” Fryatt explained. “Instead, I picked up a wedge and started chipping in the backyard off a piece of AstroTurf. My wife about fell over. That was the start.”

Or the restart, as it were.

Fryatt, who spent his childhood in the Philadelphia area – he wore an Eagles hat Sunday – where his father James played a portion of his professional soccer career, was a three-time All-American golfer at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas before embarking on a professional career in which he won six times, five overseas. His other win came in the Web.com Tour’s Hershey (Pa.) Open, about 75 minutes west of Stonewall. His brother, Sean, still lives in the Philadelphia area, and was in his gallery Sunday.

“I had a lot of good vibes coming here,” said Fryatt, who carried his own bag for two days while most of the field used a caddie.

In addition to his victories, Fryatt enjoyed several other highlights, including a tie for 24th in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. He posted 17 top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour in 105 starts and earned $1.5 million.

But as the good play evaporated, frustration washed over him. He didn’t miss the game when he stopped playing and took a job as an insurance agent. He said his professional conquests were “in another lifetime.”

But they stayed with him, which is why he eventually found his way back to golf. “I remember how well I used to play, and to not reach that level again right now is frustrating. But the game is fun again. Sometimes it brings back the feelings I had when I left the game, but that’s OK. I do ask myself what keeps me going, and I guess it’s because I have enough good days, hit enough good shots.”

He realizes that his skills aren’t going to magically return, not after a decade of inactivity. But Fryatt can still conjure good golf, having recently won the Nevada State Match Play and State Mid-Amateur titles.

Five years away is a potential return to the professional ranks on the PGA Tour Champions, but he wasn’t thinking that far ahead. He wouldn't rule it out, but it’s too early in his second lifetime as a golfer to know where he might be headed.

“There is no ultimate goal,” Fryatt said. “There was a time when I would have said that I would never pick up a club again. But here I am. It takes a lot of time to be a good competitive golfer, whether on the amateur or pro level. I know that from experience. I’ll just see where my game takes me.”

It’s a new mountain to climb. And without his bike.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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