The Perks Are Huge When You Win a Players

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The suits at the PGA Tour headquarters will bravely try to put a positive spin on all this and say with stiff upper lip that its an example of the depth on the tour nowadays. If youve got a miners helmet, a flashlight and a list of all the members of the tour, you might have picked Craig Perks out of the pack of anonymous no-names who are the fodders of the fairways. But no more - he now wears the title of champion of the Players, beating out by the length of a chip-shot or two another anonymous chap, Stephen Ames.
 
Perks is a likeable man. He richly deserved his trophy, having hung around the lead for three days before finally roaring to the finishing with three glorious holes Sunday. They are three of the scariest at the Sawgrass course, and he played them in 3-under, needing only one putt to conquer the trio of finishers.
 
The question with such winners is always, will he continue in the tradition of Kevin Sutherland, who won the Accenture Match Play but then missed the cut in both his next outings? Sutherland showed an amazing amount of grit in getting by six opponents, but since then, a 79 in the first round at Bay Hill and a 78 in the first round at the Players sent him back to the no-name class again. Will that happen to Perks? Or is this truly a renaissance in the career of the 35-year-old Kiwi?
 
You probably havent heard of this Perks fella if you live outside his native New Zealand, or the area surrounding Lafayette, La., where he now lives. A newsman from Australia was equally stumped at the Players. No, he confessed, he didnt know much about him, though Perks grew up in that island nation nearest Australia.
 
Perhaps thats because Perks hasnt done much since his college days at the University of Oklahoma and then Southwest Louisiana. Perhaps its because his victories the past 10 years have been four titles on the Hooters Tour. The Hooters Tour is a step below the Buy.Com Tour, which is the minor leagues of the PGA Tour. Winners there make on the order of $11,000 per championship, which is what you usually make for last place on the big tour.
 
Perks, though, is not apologizing. Nor should he. It wasnt his fault that Sawgrass was set up so ridiculously difficult that a lucky bounce or two would decide the title. He has certainly paid his dues, swatting it around in the hillbilly towns of America until he finally came up with the Big One.
 
The Hooters Tour? Well, yes - and to all the Hooters Tour players, its a real viable alternative when you cant play the PGA Tour or the Buy.Com.
 
Its a golf tour where you play 72 holes and they cut after 36, playing in some unbelievable towns you never heard of and some very, very poorly conditioned golf courses, he said. But I think that playing in that has helped me progress as a player and got me to the Nike (now Buy.Com) Tour.
 
I think youve got to play. You just cant sit around and wait for Q-School to come and hope to be successful. I did win four times in three years (on the Hooters), and like I said, I was on that tour a lot longer than I wanted to be. Then I was on the Nike (now Buy.Com) a lot longer than I really wanted to, but I think those experiences have really helped me become successful.
 
Well, thats a matter of personal taste. But if you call successful making $457,127 last year or $297,912 the year before (I do!), then he is a success. If you dont call the 113th man on the tours money list a success (and 136 the year before), then you probably arent convinced that this is the real McCoy (or Perks). He made a little over $1 million for winning Sunday, so that one weeks haul was more than his entire haul for the previous 10 years of his pro career.
 
Say this much for him ' this fellow believes in hanging tough and never giving up. He opened the Bay Hill tournament with two out-of-bounds balls on the very first hole, then came back to make the cut.
 
I have seen a lot of players on this tour who would have packed it in, Perks said proudly. I mean, thats how I compete. I could be going so bad and I am going to give it 100 percent on every single shot I have done it my entire career. So it wasnt any different today (Sunday).
 
Perks may well slip back into anonymity, leading a quiet Louisiana life with his family after The Week That Shook the World. Or, its possible that maybe, at 35, he will become a consistent player. Whatever, he will always remember this time when his 15 minutes of fame turned into four wonderful days.