Ben Crane said he focused on this secret theme: “Be a champion. Think like a champion. Eat like a champion. Work out like a champion. Practice like a champion.” Oh, and play like one, too.
And Crane did, capturing his second career title Oct. 14 at the inaugural Gila River Golf Classic by winning a playoff over Bo Van Pelt and Jason Caron.
Crane dropped a 12-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to beat Van Pelt; Caron was eliminated with a bogey on the second playoff hole. All three players tied at 23-under 261 after 72 holes at the Whirlwind Golf Club in suburban Phoenix. D.A. Points finished fourth, two off the pace, while Todd Fischer was fifth, five back.
“It’s been an incredible year and an incredible week,” said Crane, choking back his emotions. “I just prayed at the beginning of the week and followed my theme. The whole thing is pretty awesome.”
Crane began the final round at 20 under par and with a one-stroke lead over Van Pelt, with whom he had shared the first and second-day leads. Caron was four off the pace.
With the desert winds virtually nonexistent, the final round turned into another birdie barrage for the field, which had a cumulative scoring average of 68.45 on the par-71 layout.
When Van Pelt birdied the par-4 fifth hole to join Crane at 20 under, the race was on, and the two sluggers went toe-to-toe the rest of the way. Van Pelt stuffed a birdie at the par-5 17th to go 24 under and take a one-shot advantage. But the former Oklahoma State star opened the door when he three-putted the final hole from 40 feet, missing a 3-footer that would have given him his first career victory.
With his latest victory, Crane, winner of the 2000 Wichita Open as a Monday qualifier, vaulted from No. 79 to No. 26 on the money list with two events left on the schedule. The top 15 players at the end of the year will earn their 2002 PGA Tour cards.