Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Perks Proud to Chip in for Invitation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Perks Proud to Chip in for Invitation

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The letter came via Federal Express. And even though Craig Perks knew what was inside -- the return address was Augusta National Golf Club -- there was something about actually holding it in his hands.

He got his wife. They sat down in their Lafayette, La., home, tore open the envelope and pulled out a piece of cream stationary with a green border that, if not for the words on it, one might describe as plain.

"You open it and there it is," he said. " 'You're invited to the 2002 Masters at Augusta National.' "

There had been other invitations. Just not like this one. Five times he had been asked to play the course as a guest. Five times he had politely declined.

As he stood near the clubhouse after his first trip around these 18 holes, a practice round Monday, he explained: "This is a pretty special place. And it was a tournament that I just wanted to earn my right to play."

Perks, of course, earned that right last month in our back yard, grabbing the final spot in the Masters by winning The Players Championship with chips on Nos. 16 and 18 and a 28-foot putt on No. 17.

Three shots heard 'round the world.

Or at least to New Zealand.

After the victory, Perks got calls from about 50 people in his homeland, many of them telling him it was the biggest win since Bob Charles won the British Open in 1963 -- perhaps even bigger because of the media coverage.

The morning after the victory, Michael Versfeld was one of several "proud Kiwis" who sent an e-mail to the Times-Union. He wrote: "Craig's win has had a huge impact on the local scene here in Auckland, coming after compatriot Michael Campbell finished second in the Bay Hill Classic, also with a chip-in. . . . Together with Tiger's visit to play in our Open in January, driving ranges are packed. …

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