BETHESDA -- This sure beats the Hooters Tour.
Rob Bradley, a week past his 23rd birthday and a year out of the University of North Carolina, has dreamed of playing professional golf since he first swung a club at age 5.
He has earned less than $14,000 this year on the Hooters Tour, a tournament series with less stature than the Nike Tour, let alone the PGA Tour. Bradley spent the spring scuffling his way from Bastrop, La., to Millington, Tenn., to Blythewood, S.C., but for at least one week, he is enjoying the world of courtesy cars, grandstands and unlimited locker room goodies.
"I was a little nervous when I got here," Bradley said.
Fact was, Bradley looked nauseated at Congressional Country Club, and that was before a practice round. He was one of 39 players who made their first U.S. Open appearances yesterday, and he wanted to make sure it wasn't his last.
The rookies included Dave Schreyer, 30, another Hooters regular who wants back on the PGA Tour and looked like he was ready with a 68, and amateur Bob Kearny, 40, a Houston computer programmer, but mostly they were youngsters such as Bradley, who struggled with a 77.
They survived a qualifying process to earn the chance to stride the same fairways as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman and play before the same galleries that follow Tiger Woods. To tell the truth, not much traffic was following the 2: 30 p.m. group that included Edward Fryatt.
"I didn't come out here just for the experience, to say, 'Wow, the U.S. Open,'" said Fryatt, who shot a 2-over 72 despite bogeying two of the first three holes. "I've got bills to pay. I don't have another job to go back to. This is my job."
Fryatt, 26, is a globe-trotter who would like to settle in the United States. Born in England, he moved to the United States as a child when his father, a British footballer, signed to play with the Philadelphia Atoms of the old North American Soccer League. The family eventually settled in Las Vegas, but Fryatt is rarely there.
After a disappointing showing at the tour's qualifying school last December, Fryatt headed to the Asian Tour, where he was No. 2 on the earnings list after a win in Indonesia. He's won more than $119,000 but wants to come home.
"[The PGA Tour] is the pinnacle, obviously. It's what everyone wants to do, but there's a flip side to professional golf," Fryatt said. "On the Asian Tour, I'm carrying my own luggage, making my own arrangements, doing my own yardage books.
"I'm getting married in September, and my fiancee had this image of pro golf being a party scene, cocktails in the clubhouse, chauffeurs, everything taken care of for you. I took her to Q-school last year, and she saw how exhausting reality is. That said: It's a great lifestyle."
Two weeks ago, Fryatt finished 13th in an Asian Tour event in Seoul, South Korea, then flew to Chicago for his sectional qualifierand its three Open spots.
The sectional in Tarzana, Calif., offered five berths, and three of them went to collegians. Best known were Joel Kribel, a Stanford junior who shot an even-par 70 yesterday, the low by an amateur, and UCLA freshman Jason Semelsberger, at 18 the youngest player in this year's field.
The other student was Terry Noe, 20, the field's second-youngest player. He'll begin his second year at Long Beach State in the fall. Noe was born in Korea, and his family moved to Southern California in 1992 in part to further his golf career.
While the Kemper Open wrapped up Sunday, Noe was at Congressional, practicing. He played another round Tuesday with Japan's Jumbo Ozaki, one of the best players ever out of Asia. Language proved a barrier, but Noe was accustomed to that.
"I had two years of English before I came here, but I didn't learn the conversational things," he said. "It's a little tough for me."
Noe's claim to fame did lead to a brief chat that he enjoyed on the Congressional practice range. Noe was the U.S. Junior Amateur champion in 1994, but he has received more notoriety from last year's Western Amateur, where he was the last person to beat Tiger Woods when he was an amateur.
"He talked to me here. I was surprised," Noe said. "At Los Angeles [during the Nissan Open], he didn't say anything. He saw me on the range and congratulated me for being here. I congratulated him for winning the Masters."
Pub Date: 6/13/97