Billy Andrade swings through TPC Potomac as he aims for Champions Tour

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Golfer returns to scene of first PGA Tour win

As a 27-year-old golfer, Billy Andrade jump-started his career with his first PGA Tour victory at Avenel Farm. Twenty-two years later, Andrade is back at the renovated course in Potomac looking for another starting point as he prepares for the Champions Tour.

With his 50th birthday looming, Andrade recently left his job as an on-course reporter with a pot of gold as a potential reward.

"I had three great years with the Golf Channel," Andrade said. "Now I'm back playing full-time, getting my game ready for January 25th, 2014."

up next
Mid-Atlantic Championship first round
When » Thursday
Where » TPC Potomac at
Avenel Farm

The date has long been on Andrade's radar. He is one of a handful of players who are sharpening their game this week in preparation for the Champions Tour. Also playing in the Mid-Atlantic Championship are Joe Durant, 49, and Lee Janzen, 48, a PGA Tour winner at Avenel in 1995.

Although it is a developmental circuit preparing players for the PGA, the Web.com Tour extends playing privileges to players age 48 and 49 who will become eligible for Champions Tour when they reach age 50.

After he played only six times on the PGA Tour since 2010 and missed the cut each time, this will be Andrade's fourth Web.com Tour event in the last six weeks. He's made the cut just once.

"You can't just turn the switch on to play consistent competitive golf. You have to work at it," Andrade said. "You can't just do that at home, playing with your son or your friends. You have to play competitive golf. It's been my plan all along for 2013 to get back on the horse and go through the trials and tribulations."

For a popular and high-profile player, the "trials and tribulations" include cool pro-am pairings. On Wednesday, Andrade played with a powerhouse foursome -- former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich, Exelon executive chairman Mayo Shattuck and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.

It wasn't the first time Andrade, a Rhode Island native, had played with Williams, formerly the coach at Boston College. They were playing partners at another pro-am 27 years ago.

"I said to Gary, 'We've come a long way since 1985 and the Northeast Amateur,' " Andrade said.

One of the most memorable moments along the way for Andrade came at Avenel in 1991, where he beat Jeff Sluman in a playoff. He stayed at his sister's home in Fairfax that week and remembers two things about the week -- gridlock on the Beltway getting to Potomac and the huge crowds at Avenel that watched him win on Sunday.

So energized by his triumph was Andrade that he won the following week at Westchester. The two-week splurge accounted for half his wins in 22 years on the PGA Tour.

Much about the Tour has changed. For one, when Andrade came out of Wake Forest, there was no developmental tour for the PGA. He qualified right out of college via Q-School.

"It's fantastic for these kids to have this opportunity to play this kind of competition for decent money," Andrade said.

It's also nice for those who are looking for a second life and much more than decent money on the Champions Tour.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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