Finally healthy, Bertsch starts fast at Hope

Shane Bertsch watches his chip for eagle just miss on the eighth hole at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course during the first round of the Bob Hope Classic.

Shane Bertsch watches his chip for eagle just miss on the eighth hole at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course during the first round of the Bob Hope Classic.

If you’re looking for a feel-good story to root for at the Bob Hope Classic, you don’t have to look past the top of the first-round leaderboard and Shane Bertsch.

He’s back playing golf after a lost year in 2009, and opened with a 10-under 62 at the PGA West Nicklaus Private Course.

Bertsch, 39, broke his right foot when he slipped on the last set of stairs in his Colorado home in 2008. Later he learned the injury was more serious: ligament damage along with a broken metatarsal that required surgery. He played only four Nationwide Tour and two PGA Tour events last year, and earned less than $8,000.

At PGA Tour Qualifying School, one good round round made up for a year’s worth of frustration. He shot a bogey-free 65 in the final round to improve from T-50 to T-15 and regain his Tour card.

But Bertsch buried a few more demons that day. In 2007, Bertsch played in just four tournaments because of a bout with vertigo, so in 2008 he was entitled to a major medical extension.

That gave Bertsch 28 starts to earn at least $745,420. When he got to $841,248, Bertsch figured he was all set for 2009. But it turned out that made him fully exempt for the rest of 2008. He still needed to finish in the top 125 to keep his card for 2009.

Thinking he had been safe, Bertsch skipped the penultimate tournament of the season, then missed the cut at the finale (Disney), falling from 124th to 126th on the money list. Compounding his error, Bertsch never signed up for Q-School last year (but he did qualify for a Darwin Award). That’s when he added injury to insult.

In the final round of Q-School in December, he found his stride. His brother, Jesse, who caddies for him, called it “one of the best rounds of our seven years together.”

Now that he’s healthy again, Bertsch feels the sky is the limit.

“I’m just happy to be back where you want to be,” Bertsch said after earning his card. 

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