When Bradley Dredge lost his card in 2012, many feared the Welshman would fail to rediscover his best form to return to the game's top flight. Jeremy Ellwood speaks to him about setbacks and comebacks
Welshman Bradley Dredge has been on tour for 16 years, during which time he has won twice, finished top 75 every year from 2001 to 2010 (top 25 four times), and strung together three consecutive €1million-plus seasons from 2005 to 2007. Maybe not one of the tour’s top stars, but a reliable campaigner blessed with both consistency and the ability to win.
Back in 2010, with Dredge enjoying a decent early season campaign, there was even talk of a possible Celtic Manor Ryder Cup spot if he could put together a strong run. It didn’t happen; the latter part of the year tailed off, and Dredge then slipped to 96th in 2011 before falling to 125th in 2012 to lose the card he had held for so long.
Loss of status in 2013 was compounded by health problems, and with Dredge turning 40, things were looking a little bleak. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the Welshman put together back-to-back second-place finishes in August last year in Denmark and the Czech Republic to effectively seal his card for next year in one golden ten-day spell.
Dredge played just nine events across both European and Challenge Tours in 2013, so was this down to loss of status or continuing health issues.
“A bit of both. I knew I was going to be playing a lot less on the main tour, but I was still hoping to get 15 or so tournaments and make my card up through them.
“But unfortunately I suffered a few health problems that didn’t allow me to play, so I took some time off. I’m still not quite there with the health, but I’m getting there. But my health has to take priority over golf.”
Last year, keen golf followers may even have spotted Dredge’s name on a handful of Europro Tour leaderboards. “I needed to play some competitive rounds and get a card in my hand,” he explains. “So I played a little bit in Spain on the Evolve Tour, then on the Europro Tour as there were some events in the UK on some good golf courses.”
They went well, with Dredge recording a 9th place, then 2nd place finishes at both Longhirst Hall and The Carrick. Longhirst would have yielded a victory, though, but for a chip shot from ‘Ground Under Repair’ on the 70th hole, which cost Dredge a two-shot penalty.
“Ultimately, I should have read the Local Rules. Normally on the European Tour if you see a GUR sign, you get the option to play out of that GUR – it’s not always compulsory.
“So it was my own fault, and mentally I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. It’s such a mental game, and good and bad things happen all the time. You’ve got to be able to ride both the ups and downs.”
MAKING IT COUNT
Nevertheless, there were clearly positives from the week, and when Dredge secured a main tour start in the following week’s Nordea Masters, he carried his good form over, jostling with the leaders for three days before falling away a little on Sunday.
On his next visit to Scandinavia six weeks later, Dredge finally converted his good play into the results he desperately needed to re-establish himself as a main tour campaigner, finishing second in Made in Demmark.
“Again, I knew I was playing some good golf coming into the Made in Denmark event. But it’s always a matter of putting four good rounds together, which is easier said than done.”
But was the over-riding emotion was one of satisfaction or disappointment to have comes so close and not won.
“It’s always a mixture. I was disappointed I didn’t play as well on the weekend as in the first two rounds, but obviously still pleased to finish 2nd. Ultimately 2nd is better than 3rd! But I always turn up with the intention to win – every week that’s the goal.”
It’s a goal he came perilously close to realising the very next week in the Czech Republic, where he was only denied victory by countryman Jamie Donaldson’s dogged determination to cement his Ryder Cup debut.
“It was a nice feeling on the last day though. I hit the ball really well off the tee, and gave myself a lot of chances. I just didn’t putt as well as I had been doing. Obviously Jamie was playing really, really well and he was tough to beat that day.
“But I felt my performance was better at the weekend than it had been the previous week, so I was probably more pleased with my performance in that one.”
Looking at the big picture, though, those two remarkable weeks netted Dredge €277,000, comfortably more than he’d earned in 2012 and 2013 combined, and more importantly, comfortably enough to reclaim that coveted tour card.
As we draw to a close, there is one final question: what had he been planning to do in 2015 if none of this had happened? His response impresses me, providing real insight into the mind of a competitor with absolute deep-down belief in his abilities.
“I always felt I had a chance to get my card back, whether from playing well in the tournaments that I play in, performing exceptionally well on the Challenge Tour or going to Tour School. I felt that as long as my game was in good shape I had a good chance through one of those three options.”