A Big Stakes Gamble Leads to Golfs Richest Reward

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Editors Note: The Golf Channel will air the 2005 Big Stakes Match Play Championship Monday evening, May 30th at 10 p.m. (ET)
 
Each year people from all over the world flock to Nevada to strike it rich. The majority return home empty handed, but a lucky few rake in the big bucks.
 
David Ping and Garth Mulroy were two of the lucky ones to make millions, and thats without stepping foot in a casino. Rather, the duo took home the largest paycheck in golf history by winning the inaugural Big Stakes Challenge match-play event at the Casablanca Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada.
 
Ping, a mini-tour player, and Mulroy, a former All-American golfer at North Carolina State, blitzed through a field of 64 two-man teams to earn a total of $3 million in tournament prize money. After grinding it out for years without a lucrative pay day, the two can finally live a life of luxury - but priorities lie elsewhere.
 
First things first, weve got to get rid of our credit card debt which is piled higher than the ceiling, Ping said.
 
With so much money on the line, the pressure of a putt to win on the 18th hole would have been off the charts. Luckily Ping and Mulroy avoided that dreaded situation throughout the tournament. Their 2-up victory over Rick Hartmann and Mark Mielke in the championship round was the only match to reach the final hole. Quite an achievement for teammates with no game plan and no one on the bag.
 
We really didnt have a strategy except we knew we really didnt want to go with a caddie, we just wanted to be able to communicate with each other and gel as one, Ping said.
 
The majority of winners taking home such a large paycheck would understandably cutback on their workload and take it easy for awhile. Mulroy on the other hand sees the victory as a chance for career advancement. Hes played a couple of Nationwide Tour events, but his sights are set even higher.
 
It give us a chance to Monday qualify and not worry about having to play mini-tours in between to try to make some money, the South Africa native said. It gives us a chance now to go out there and give it a shot.
 
The Big Stakes Challenge served as the ultimate payout for Ping and Mulroy, but it was also the ultimate gamble. Each of the 64 teams put up $100,000 to enter the tournament. Since Ping and Mulroy couldnt afford the entry fee, they turned to a pair of NFL lineman for sponsorship. However, getting Ross Verba of the Cleveland Browns and Barry Stokes of the Atlanta Falcons to fork over $50,000 each was about as difficult as winning the tournament itself.
 
They were a little iffy about it at first, but with a little finagling in the conversation we were able to convince them this was the best deal in town, Ping said. I dont know if it necessarily was, but it turned out to be. They took the hook and we ran with it.