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Pitched Battle
Gary Van Sickle
April 01, 2002
Thanks to a couple of amazing hole-outs when he needed them most, little-known Craig Perks fought off a star-studded field at the Players Championship
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April 01, 2002

Pitched Battle

Thanks to a couple of amazing hole-outs when he needed them most, little-known Craig Perks fought off a star-studded field at the Players Championship

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That aside, Perks, at 6'2" and 200 pounds, looks like a big-time player. "I watched him warming up," said Jeff Sluman, who joined Andrade, Garc�a, Mediate, Paulson and Scott Hoch in fourth, "and he looked like Ernie Els swinging the club." When he was 10, Perks was introduced to the game by his father, Bob, who had two artificial hips. At a nine-hole course in Palmerston North, New Zealand, a city of 72,500 that's 225 miles south of Auckland, Craig teed up his father's ball and picked it out of the cup for him. Soon he was playing too and within a few years was one of New Zealand's top juniors. He followed a friend, Grant Waite, to Oklahoma in 1985 but in '88 transferred to Southwestern Louisiana, where he met Maureen, a fellow student. He was a third-team All-America in his senior year, 1990, and turned pro after graduating with a degree in behavioral science. Since then, he and Maureen have had two children-Meghan, 5, and Nigel, 3—while he has struggled to gain a foothold on Tour.

"Craig has a great swing, his short game was always very good, but I think he lacked confidence," says Waite, who missed the cut at the Players and on Sunday returned home from a practice session in Orlando just in time to tune in and see Perks lining up his putt on 17. Waite sweated out the wild ride on 18, jumping out of his chair when Perks holed out for the win. "I almost couldn't watch," says Waite. "I'm two years older than Craig, so I've always been a bit ahead, but he's way ahead of me now. This is huge. This is the biggest thing in New Zealand since Bob Charles won the [1963] British Open."

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