After a lost year in which knee pain and subsequent surgery limited him to a couple minitour events, Charlie Danielson of Osceola took another step on the comeback trail Friday.
Danielson, 25, a four-time all-American at the University of Illinois and the Big Ten Conference player of the year in 2016, earned conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada after tying for 14th place in the fourth of six qualifying tournaments in Litchfield Park, Arizona.
But Danielson wasn’t overjoyed, for a couple reasons.
One, he wasn’t granted a medical extension after missing all of 2018. “No exceptions (on PGA Tour Canada),” he wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. And two, he had a chance to be fully exempt for the first six events on the 2019 schedule, but lost a four-for-one playoff for the final spot.
He had to play off because only the top 14 — no ties — are fully exempt. That means Danielson, who finished 21st on the Order of Merit in 2017, will have conditional status.
Starting on the 10th hole in the final round, he parred the first seven holes at Wigwam Golf Club and then ran off three consecutive birdies on Nos. 17, 18 and 1. At that point, he was at 6-under for the tournament and in the top 10. But he gave all three strokes back with bogeys on Nos. 4, 7 and 9.
“I played solid golf all week and just let it slip on the back nine,” Danielson wrote.
He finished at even-par 72 for the round and 3-under 285 for the tournament.
Jake Knapp won the qualifier at 16-under 272. Will Zalatoris finished second, two strokes back, and Jamie Sadlowski was third at 276.
Kyle Driscoll of Pewaukee, a former University of Northern Iowa golfer, shot a final-round 72 and finished at 1-under 287, good for a tie for 24th. He also earned conditional status (top 40 plus ties).
"My mindset was to just play easy golf in the final round," Driscoll, who turned 26 Friday, wrote in a text message after a round that featured three birdies (Nos. 7, 9 and 18) and three bogeys (Nos. 10, 15 and 17) left him three shots inside the cutline. "I wanted to hit a lot of greens and give myself a lot of birdie putts. I did a great job of that on my first nine holes."
Former Marquette University golfer Garrett Loomis of River Falls finished in a tie for 83rd. The 2013 WSGA junior champion carded a final-round 77.
In 2017, Danielson earned $28,488 in just seven starts on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada and shot 70 or better in 20 of 24 rounds. He also made two starts on the Web.com Tour and three on the PGA Tour.
But debilitating knee pain flared up in December of that year and when the knee didn’t improve with rest and rehabilitation, he underwent surgery in July 2018 to repair two holes in his meniscus and missed the remainder of the season.
He said he was playing at "85 percent health" this week.
After two more qualifiers, the 2019 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada schedule gets under way with the Freedom 55 Financial Open, May 23 through 26 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, who is playing on the Web.com Tour, won that tournament last year.
"Conditional status, for me. gives me a chance to improve my priority before the reshuffle this year," Driscoll wrote. "It also gives me the perks of discounted Monday qualifiers on all (PGA Tour-sanctioned) tours and a place to practice with TPC courses. I’m not sure what my schedule will be yet, I want to play a lot of the Monday qualifiers to reshuffle into the end of the season."