Some of the best perks came Tuesday.
Verplank stood outside the locker room at Quail Hollow and could barely complete a sentence without players, caddies and officials stopping by to congratulate him. His cell phone was so overloaded with voice mail and text messages that the screen broke, so he switched to his wife's phone and that one broke, too.
``I'm on my third in two days,'' he said. ``I've had more people call and text message me than I ever have in my life.''
It was the fifth win of his PGA TOUR, and by far the most meaningful.
Verplank won the Western Open while in school at Oklahoma State, at the time the first amateur in 29 years to win on tour. His last victory had been the Canadian Open in 2001, significant because it came a few weeks after he was the first player to make his first Ryder Cup team as a captain's pick.
Winning the Byron Nelson was emotional in so many ways.
He was among the best juniors in Dallas, and his relationship with Nelson began when Verplank was 17 and Nelson called him up and asked to watch him hit balls. To win the first tournament after Nelson died was almost too much for him to handle.
``I've never been choked up winning a golf tournament in my life,'' Verplank said, who struggled slightly to keep his composure even as he spoke on Tuesday. ``There's no crying in golf, but I'm telling you, I could hardly speak.''
And while it was important to win for the memory of Nelson, it also was meaningful for his grandfather.
Bob Bybee had been hospitalized that week because of congenital heart failure. Verplank went to see his 87-year-old grandfather after his first round Thursday.
``I called him right when I got done (Sunday) and asked him if he was feeling better,'' Verplank said. ``He said, 'You betcha!' To me, he's a guy a lot like Byron Nelson. He's been a great influence in my life. He's a real gentleman, and he was a pretty fair golfer in his day.''
Michelle Wie has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Canadian Women's Open, the first time she will play north of the U.S. border. The tournament will be held Aug. 16-19 at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.
But it won't be her first time playing a Canadian event.
Wie first played against the men in 2003 at age 14 in the Bay Mills Open Players Championship on the Canadian Tour, even though the tournament was held in Michigan. She missed the cut after rounds of 74-79.
``I'm excited to get out there and play again and especially excited to make my professional debut in Canada,'' she said.
Playing the Canadian Women's Open likely will give Wie three straight events on the LPGA Tour, as it follows the Evian Masters in France and the Women's British Open at St. Andrews. Wie would have a week off before going to Canada.
And then it will be off to college for her freshman year at Stanford.
Wie, 17, has not played since the Sony Open because of a wrist injury. She is to return to competition at the Ginn Tribute, a new LPGA event in South Carolina to be held the last week in May.
David Toms had to withdraw from the Wachovia Championship because of personal reasons, leaving the tournament with 27 of the top 30 players in the world ranking. The other players from the top 30 not at Quail Hollow are Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
Also pulling out was David Duval.
The former British Open champion has not played since the Nissan Open in February because his wife, pregnant with their second child, is not bed rest for the final four months of her pregnancy.
Val Skinner, a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour who has devoted 15 years to raising money for breast cancer research, will be honored with the Winnie Palmer Award at the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association dinner June 18.
Skinner in 1996 launched a program called LIFE (LPGA pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer), which benefits the New Jersey Cancer Institute and Susan G. Komen for a Cure. The annual charity pro-am has raised $500,000 every year, the largest single-day donation ever for breast cancer from a golf event.
The Winnie Palmer Award was created in 2000 to acknowledge an individual who has consistently given time, energy and enthusiasm to those less fortunate. The award is named in honor of Arnold Palmer's deceased wife Winnie, who devoted much of her life to charity work for literacy programs and health care.
Of the 58 players exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open, only 26 are from the United States. ... Luke Donald has 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Byron Nelson Championship, but still no trophy. He has finished second, tied for sixth and tied for 18th the last three years. ... Vaughn Taylor has signed an endorsement deal with E-Z-GO, the world's largest manufacturer of golf carts. The deal is a perfect fit because both are based in Augusta, Ga., and Taylor's mother worked at E-Z-GO for 18 years. Vijay Singh will be playing the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour on May 24-27, the first of four straight tournaments through the U.S. Open. It will be the 10th time Singh has played Europe's flagship event, with one only top 10. ... Brett Wetterich got the prime parking spot at the Byron Nelson Championship as the defending champion. He also gets good spots at the World Golf Championships. ``My name is close to Tiger's and he's always up front,'' he said.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Americans have won 13 of the first 18 events on the PGA Tour, their best start since they won 14 times through April in 2001.
``It's not a business of being sentimental. It's a business of trying to win as many tournaments as you can.'' - Jerry Kelly, explaining why only two of the top 10 players in the world ranking played in the Byron Nelson Championship.
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