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Nervy debut awaits Jim Rutledge

Jim Rutledge expects to feel a flutter of nerves when he makes his debut at this week's Sony Open as the second oldest rookie in PGA Tour history.

The 47-year-old Canadian qualified for the world's most lucrative circuit by finishing 14th in the 2006 Nationwide Tour money list, 28 years after turning professional.

"I've played a lot of golf and have a lot of experience but I think you always gain experience," Rutledge said during a conference call at Waialae Country Club on Tuesday.

"This is definitely going to be a new one and I expect to feel nerves, as well as excitement just teeing it up to play this golf course.

"You see it on TV all these years, but you never really know what it's like. It's a thrill just to play here for the first time."

Rutledge, who set up his career-best Nationwide Tour season by winning the New Zealand PGA Championship last February, is scheduled to tee off at 1300 local in Thursday's first round.

Until then, he expects to experience more media attention than ever before.

"It's a little unnerving just learning how to go about the media and putting time aside," he said.

"But I'm here for a reason: To play my golf. When I'm finished with my golf, I'll take care of duties on the side."

A winner of six Canadian Tour titles, Rutledge has played in 31 PGA Tour events, making the halfway cut eight times. His best finish came on his debut at the 1982 Canadian Open, where he tied for 26th.

He readily accepts his goal of making the grade as a full-time PGA Tour player would never have been achieved without the help of his family.

"It may never come around, but my family's always been behind me, especially my wife and son," Rutledge added.

"They've always been the ones to keep me out there, keep me pushing. Deep down, I think they knew that I had the game. I think I knew that, too, but time might have been running out."

Rutledge, who has played in Europe and Asia and represented his country at three World Cups, concedes his priorities have changed over the years.

"A few years back, I was enjoying my time playing a lot of golf in Asia and was having success there," said the British Columbia native, winner of the 1995 Indian Open.

"The PGA Tour was not at the top of my list then but it became that six or seven years ago.

"My goals definitely changed. I wanted to get my card, and age wasn't really a factor. I just thought, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. If not, that is fine, too.

"Now I'm out here, I just want to play some good golf and keep my playing privileges for next year."

Rutledge became the Tour's second-oldest rookie aged 47 years, four months and six days, one month younger than American Allen Doyle was in 1996.

January 10, 2007

 




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