It took a playoff, but call it mission accomplished for Jim Rutledge.
The Victoria native birdied the first extra hole in a four-man playoff Friday to earn exempt status on the Champions Tour for 2013.
We birdied the first hole, which was great, just to get out of there, said a relieved Rutledge shortly after earning back his card.
Rutledge finished last season in 49th place on the money list with $270,434. The top 30 had earned back their privileges for 2013.
Rutledge grabbed the fourth of five available playing cards after Gene Jones finished atop the leaderboard at 13-under 275, three shots better than Jeff Brehaut. Mark Mouland was another three back in third at 7-under 281.
Rutledge, John Riegger, Esteban Toledo and Chie-Hsiang Lin all came in at 6-under 282 and were forced back onto the course to claim the last two positions.
Rutledge wrapped up the four-round event at TPC Eagle Trace at Coral Springs, Florida, with a 1-under 71 on the day.
Its been a long, tough, grinding week. Especially with the scores all log-jammed together, Rutledge said. You never know whats going to happen. Today the scores went backwards, if anything. Almost backwards. You had to get to 8- or 9-under par to get there.
Rutledges 4-under 68 in Round 2 set up the week. He will now return home to Victoria next week, and the 53-year-old gets right back at it in late January.
Riegger grabbed the fifth and final spot, but with Brehaut and Riegger not becoming age-eligible until June, when they turn 50, Lin and Toledo will be fully exempt until then.
Meanwhile, in the second stage of PGA Qualifying school, former UVic Vikes athlete Mitch Evanecz remains tied for sixth after a 2-under 69 on Friday at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murietta, California.
Evanecz is at 9-under 207 after three of four rounds with 19 qualifying spots and ties moving on to the third and final stage.
Nick Taylor of Abbotsford slipped to a 4-over 76 and is tied for 29th at 2-under 214. Stu Anderson of Sooke also struggled on the day with a 3-over 75 that leaves him tied for 46th at 218 and needing something real special today.
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