'This game is messed up' - Meet Florian Fritsch, the European Tour pro with a fear of flying


For Florian Fritsch, being grounded is no barrier to chasing birdies and eagles.

And the importance of good driving to a professional golfer's chances of success has a very different meaning for the German.

Fritsch is 104th in the Race to Dubai standings courtesy of three top-10 finishes in his last five events, moving him close to securing his European Tour card for 2017.

And that is despite - remarkably for a sport in which globetrotting is seemingly a prerequisite for success - Fritsch choosing to avoid air travel due to his fear of flying, prompting a mileage-intensive commitment to his craft.

"Many people know that I don't fly anymore, I only play events I can drive to," he wrote in a blog on the European Tour website.

"I used to not mind flying, it was just a normal thing like taking a cab. But in 2005 I was flying from Frankfurt to Turin and the plane ... suddenly it starting rocking all over the place and my coach turned to me and said 'if it goes wrong, it will be over with quickly'.

"From that moment I began thinking a lot about flying and it developed from an awareness, to an interest, to scepticism, to fear. 

"I flew a few times more but in 2010 I was in Zurich on the way to an event in Kenya and I decided I couldn't do it anymore. 

"I called my management company, told them I was quitting professional golf and took a train back home. As fate would have it, I met my wife that week in Germany.

"Amazingly, I spent a year with a regular job and then went out [and] got my Tour card. It sort of made me mad in a way. You spend all this time trying to be a pro and grinding and then you take a year off, barely practice and get through Q School. This game is messed up. That's golf I guess."

Fritsch will tee it up at the Portugal Masters in the Algarve on Thursday, no small feat - without taking to the skies - in the wake of earning a share of 33rd over 1,000 miles away at the British Masters in England on Sunday.

"To give you an example of how I travel, I do around 25,000 miles a year in my car. To get here to Portugal I left London on Sunday night after the tournament, drove to Portsmouth and got on a ferry at 10.30pm that got into Bilbao in Spain on Tuesday at 7.45am," he said.

"I then drove for ten hours to get to Vilamoura. It sounds like a lot of driving but I love it. I get to see so much of Europe and because I'm into history, if I pass something interesting I always pull over and check it out."

For Fritsch, who is yet to win on the European Tour, it has been a long road to the top. And while there could be a few more twists and turns still to come, you can bet he has the route to success mapped out already.