Joan Pitcock knows that the end is near.
Not the end of life or the end of the world or the end of time. Rather, the end of her golf career.
For some professional athletes, of course, the end of a career is like the end of the world.
"I'll be honest, the thought of life without golf used to scare me," Pitcock, the 1996 Farr Classic champion, said. "Now I'm pretty close to that point and I'm sort of amazed because the closer it comes, the more the anxiety goes away.
"I realize now that walking away might be a comfortable decision."
She had a taste of life without golf when a fairly serious back ailment that has bothered her since the 2001 season finally sidelined her much of last summer.
"It was good to get away for a while," she said. "I realize now that my back is never going to be the way it was.
"Once I got over the hump of expecting it to get better and changed my expectations, well, so be it. That's fine."
Pitcock has found a new passion - flying. She has passed her written FAA pilot examination, has flown solo, and has accumulated about 32 of the 40 hours flying time she needs to obtain a pilot's license.
"I just wanted to learn something different," she said, "something that was both fun and challenging."
Sort of like golf.
"You know, it never came easy to me," she said of the game. "There's a burden to trying to maintain a certain level of play when you are physically challenged, as I am.
"And I'm not talking about my back problems. I'm talking about dealing with a lack of size and strength. I play with people like Kelly Robbins and Meg Mallon, for example, and I'll hit a great drive and I'm still playing catch-up.
"Length is so important now and the talent on tour is so good that there's a lot of stress in just trying to make cuts. When the time comes, I won't miss that stress."
And when the time comes, whenever it may be, the 37-year-old Pitcock will be warmed by the memory of July 7, 1996, when she left the 18th green at Highland Meadows and was handed a trophy and a winner's check for the first and only time during her 17-year career.
"It was thrilling," she said. "It still thrills me."
STUPPLES IN: Newly-crowned Women's British Open champion Karen Stupples called Farr Classic director Judd Silverman yesterday and assured him she still intends to play this week at Highland Meadows.
But she will not arrive until tomorrow night and will tee off in Thursday's first round without benefit of a practice round.
"She's with her family and friends in England and they're all celebrating her win," Silverman said. "So she has changed her travel plans.
"But she said she loved our tournament and this course and wouldn't miss it for anything in the world."
JUST NOT ENOUGH: University of Toledo golfer Breanne Hall will long remember yesterday's Farr Classic qualifying tournament at Sylvania Country Club. After all, she had a hole-in-one at No. 10 and eagled the par-5 fifth hole.
Still, it wasn't enough. Her round of 72 came up one shot short as 13 golfers competed for two berths in this week's Farr. LPGA pros Dina Ammaccapane and Carri Wood captured the two spots with rounds of 70 and 71, respectively.
Another local amateur, Heather Zielinski, also attempted to qualify but finished with a 77.
PRO-AM RESULTS: A team headed by the LPGA's Tracy Hanson won yesterday's Mercy Health Partners/Medical Mutual of Ohio pro-am tournament at Highland Meadows. She and amateur partners Andy Spriggs, Pat Mollenkamp, Jim Quigley and Jeff Van Sloun posted a handicap-adjusted score of 50.08.
Angela Buzminski and her amateur partners - Doug Gullette, Rob Chumley, Josh Birmingham and Paul Kenny - were second at 50.54 while the team of pro Jeanne-Marie Busuttil with amateurs Mark Sobczak, Danny Carres, Ronald Weckerlin and Yasmin Reccord finished third at 52.20.
Low gross honors went to Nancy Scranton and her partners - Greg Kasper, Joel Levine, Jimmy Jackson and Jeff Peterson - with a 15-under 56.
TIME CHANGES: Starting times for the Farr Classic's weekend rounds have been changed to accommodate finish times for live telecasts by ESPN2.
Tee times for Saturday's third round will stretch from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with a targeted finish of 4 p.m.
On Sunday, tee times begin at 9 a.m. with the lead group going last at 2 p.m.