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Golf

Hnatiuk can live and die by 'The 125'

Glen Hnatiuk stands 130th on the payroll list with $476,453, five spots from keeping his PGA Tour card.

By HUBERT MIZELL
Published November 2, 2003

PALM HARBOR - Glen Hnatiuk tiptoes along the rim of PGA Tour canyon, wobbling through slumps, squeezing all he can from good golfing weeks, grinding to not slip off the edge, tumbling back among pros of lesser status.

It's not the world of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els or Davis Love, whose fortunes put them above it all, but a few tiers down - maybe a few tears - Glen and his fellow scramblers are straining again to make The 125.

Uptown golf, it's a testy business. To retain full PGA Tour playing privileges for the next year, a pro must earn about a half-million dollars. Finishing in The 125. There are not many jobs where a $475,000 income in any way whispers "failure."

Hnatiuk (NATCH-ik) is a master of teeter torture. He held on in 2001, finishing 119th. "It can come down to making a 6-foot putt," the Canadian said, "while another fellow misses a short one on the final green."

Last year, when all tour loot was counted, Hnatiuk was 120th. Hanging on again, dodging bullets.

"It's a validation you really want to keep," he said. "A standing that means something."

But here he goes again. In this year's pursuit of The 125, it's come to Judgment Day, final round of the Chrysler Championship. Last 2003 chance for Hnatiuk to again avoid tumbling from the PGA Tour cliff.

Daring fate, as usual.

He stands 130th on the payroll list with $476,453, but the 38-year-old survivor was tied for 38th place after three Innisbrook rounds. All he has to do is finish today to achieve the security of The 125.

Barely, always barely.

"I've thought all along I was a better player (than the 120s)," he said after Saturday's round of 72. "I figure I have enough golf game to maybe be top 70. Still, year after year, I've had to fight the 125 thing.

"It's been a real struggle this year, my iron play being less than adequate while the short game and putting didn't quite bail me out. Making The 125 is not something that keeps me awake nights. Life would go on. But, yes, it is quite important."

Tiger has no idea.

Hnatiuk owns no jet plane, drives no Ferrari, lives in no mansion, but he gets along nicely on the ground floor of The 125. Now a Floridian, he and Julia with daughters Aileen Caitlan (7) and Morgan Mary (5) ride around Pasco County in a Chevy Tahoe. They share a 3,000-square-foot home in Glen Lakes, just off U.S. 19, not far from the World Woods golf complex where Hnatiuk tunes his game.

"My wife and I stay pretty humble," said the onetime kid hockey hero from Selkirk, Manitoba. "Julia has a wonderful attitude. She's not a golfer, which might be a good thing. We have two great daughters, two good dogs, a nice house and a good life.

"Golf is my work and it never seems to get easier."

He won four tournaments in golf's top minor league, now known as the Nationwide Tour, but Hnatiuk has never finished higher than third in the big time (B.C. Open in 2000) among the Tigers, Ernies and Vijays.

Glen's best '03 results were a tie for 10th at the Heritage Classic (Hilton Head), a tie for 11th at the Greater Hartford Open and a tie for seventh at the Texas Open. Those weeks accounted for $271,000.

"My biggest disappointment was doing well in San Antonio and then missing the cut the next week at Jackson (Southern Farm Bureau Classic)," he said.

"I was putting too much pressure on myself."

We hear so much about Woods, Singh, Love, Els and their elite bunch, but the PGA Tour is much deeper in Glen Hnatiuks. Chaps working at least as hard as the sizzling tycoons, getting far less notice. Making good lives, though, from being 80th best or 101st or 125th.

While his PGA Tour number will be around $500,000 this year, he makes a nice chunk more for playing certain golf clubs, wearing certain clothes and making a few nontournament appearances. "My total should be maybe $750,000," Hnatiuk said.

Not bad for a cliff dweller.

"I still believe I can win," he said. "I don't feel 38 years old; it's more like 38 years young." While the big bombers, in measuring careers against the greats of history, use major championships as the No. 1 barometer, the bloke from Manitoba is yet to play a Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship or British Open.

"Again, as much as I would enjoy the experience of playing majors, it doesn't bug me much," Hnatiuk said. "Golf doesn't come close in importance to my family. As long as we're healthy, happy and doing okay, that's a winner in my book."

Cool philosophy from cliffside.

[Last modified November 2, 2003, 07:26:04]


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