A three-putt on the first hole of the day is usually not a sign of good things to come. But that is how George Bradford began a run that led him to a spot in his first PGA Tour event.
Bradford shot a 2-under-par 70, including a hole-in-one, yesterday at Little Bennett Golf Course in Clarksburg to become one of four golfers from the field of 75 to qualify for the Booz Allen Classic, the PGA Tour's annual stop in the Washington area. The tournament begins Thursday at TPC at Avenel in Potomac.
Bradford, a 29-year-old former University of Maryland golfer now playing on the Canadian Tour, started his day at No. 10, a par 5. After reaching the green in two, he left with a disheartening par three putts later. He then proceeded to rattle off three birdies and a hole-in-one on his next four holes.
"I wasn't too upset [with the three-putt], but I was a little disappointed," said Bradford, who was an All-Met at Wilde Lake in 1991. "I knew the course was going to play tough today. I figured I kind of missed one there. I didn't realize what was in store."
His ace came on No. 12. He hit a pitching wedge on the 154-yard, downhill hole. The ball landed four feet short, took two hops and spun back into the cup. By the time he reached the No. 15 tee, his sixth hole, Bradford was at 5 under.
"I just hit good shots," Bradford said. "That was it. My longest birdie putt there was five feet."
Peter Jordan, 40, a nine-year PGA Tour player now playing on the Nationwide Tour, shot the lowest round of the day, a 68. Brandon Knaub, a 22-year-old from York, Pa., who will make his professional debut this week, also finished with 70. Charley Hoffman, a 27-year-old professional from Las Vegas, won a five-way playoff on the second hole to claim the final spot.
Although Bradford did not make another birdie after his remarkable run, his steady play helped him qualify on his third attempt. Two years ago, when he missed the playoff by a stroke, he wound up caddying for a friend at Avenel.
Bradford is trying hard not to get too excited about his PGA Tour debut.
"I'm going to enjoy it," he said. "I'm sure the first shot I hit will be a little nerve-wracking, but after that, it's game on."
This qualifier usually is rain-soaked, which leaves the greens on this hilly course more receptive. Yesterday's breezy conditions left them firm and fast. Only eight players managed to shoot under par. Jordan, who played in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills last week, was perhaps best prepared for the conditions. He was rewarded for his patient approach with seven birdies and only three bogeys, two of which were three-putts.
"After watching TV [Sunday], watching [U.S. Open winner Retief] Goosen be so calm -- nothing can faze him -- this is just a qualifier," said Jordan, who has played in the Booz Allen Classic eight times. "I hit it close and made the putts you're supposed to make. I just felt good over it today, and they were going in."