PG North: Love of golf good reason for Friend to play on

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Bob Friend Jr. is a busy man.

The son and namesake of a former Pirates pitcher, Friend has two jobs, a wife and three children, commutes almost daily from his Fox Chapel home to West Virginia or Ohio and, oh, maintains a career as a professional golfer.

Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
Fox Chapel's Bob Friend, Jr. is still a man on the move, competing and working in golf industry.
Click photo for larger image.

And while it might appear Friend is ratcheting down that latter aspect of his life, do not suggest to him that he has moved on from professional golf. He is simply not ready to leave it behind yet.

"I still love playing competitively," said Friend, reached by phone earlier this week from suburban Philadelphia, where he was competing in the Pennsylvania Open. "Once it's in your blood, it's kind of hard to get it out. I'm still quite a good player, regularly shooting in the 60s. I had the opportunity to win some tournaments earlier this year, but didn't do it. Hopefully I can pick one up in the [Pennsylvania Open]."

Friend, 41, took third place in the West Virginia Open and the Western Pennsylvania Open professional events. He led after two days at the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational last week before finishing 11th.

And despite holding jobs as vice president of marketing for the steel division of Greer Industries and the director of golf operations for Pikewood Golf Club -- both in Morgantown, W.Va., though Greer's steel operations are in Dover, Ohio -- Friend holds aspirations of rejoining the PGA Tour, of which he earned a playing card from 1992-93 and 1998-2000.

"I'd like to take a look at it and see what my schedule will permit," Friend said. "I'd like to try my hand after playing more events in the fall and then qualifying."

Because he made enough cuts throughout his PGA Tour career, Friend is exempt from the first round of qualifying. The second round takes place in November, the third, shortly after that. Of more than 600 golfers who enter at his level around the country, only 30 will be invited on to the tour.

Friend, an accurate driver with a good short game, has long proven he can be a viable member of the tour -- he played in four U.S. Opens and a PGA championship and finished the 1998 season in 57th place on the money list, partially by taking second place at the Canadian Open that year.

He spent nine years on the Nationwide/Nike Tour, winning a tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1991. But his game was formulated as a youngster in Fox Chapel, where he has spent all but eight years of his life.

Friend was a member at Oakmont Country Club and still is. He won the Western Pennsylvania Amateur in 1984 and '85 and the Pennsylvania State Amateur championship in '85. He played in four U.S. Amateur and one U.S. Junior championships.

He remained an amateur at the time to accept a golf scholarship from LSU, where he was teammate with PGA Tour veteran David Toms and won the Southeastern Conference title in 1986.

Yet despite playing tournaments all over the world, Friend has remained a Pittsburgher, just as his father has. Friend Sr. pitched for the Pirates for 15 seasons, including the 1960 World Series and has lived in the area since joining the team in 1951.

Friend has even known his wife, Leslie, since they were in junior high school (he graduated from Fox Chapel in 1982).

"I love Pittsburgh," Friend said. "The people are wonderful. It's my home. I'm a big Pirates fan and Steelers fan and Penguins fan. We need to improve the region economically and lower taxes, but I still love it."

Friend also loves his new role as co-designer of the front nine at Pikewood, for which he works in managing the operation and increasing membership.

The back nine has been open for two years and the remainder of the course should open by early 2007.

"This is my first hand at designing and I am enjoying it. It's fabulous," he said. "I've played 70 of the top 100 ranked in courses in the U.S. and over 150 PGA Tour events, been all over the world traveling and playing, so I know what a good golf course looks like. With a good landscape architect, it's not that difficult a job.

"I could perceive myself doing something like this down the road along these lines."

But only if he is not playing competitively.


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