KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- When Ben Crane won the inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic last year, Saiful Zakaria drove Crane and his caddie, Joel Stock, to the airport following the victory.
A few weeks earlier, the handyman and father of five had taken a job with the tournament to drive players and staff fto their hotels and the golf course. At first, it was just the luck of the draw that Zakaria had the opportunity to drive Crane.
After they struck up their friendship, though, Zakaria was always there for Crane when he went out at night and when he needed a ride to the course. Zakaria's ID card didn't say "Ben Crane Chauffeur" but it might as well have.
When the tournament ended a year ago, with Crane emerging as the winner, he requested that Zakaria take him to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The two laughed and talked during the 40-minute drive, and before saying their goodbyes, Crane autographed the floppy hat he wore during the tournament and presented it to Zakaria.
"I have that hat displayed in my house," said Zakaria, who frequently sends text messages to Crane before tournaments or after particularly good rounds.
The driving job is a good one for the 40-year-old Zakaria, providing his family with extra income. So he gladly signed up for the duty again for this week's tournament. Although he had no specific assignments, Zakaria's car was from the fleet reserved for the players.
Zakaria reported to work at the airport Monday morning and pulled his car into the line behind all the other courtesy cars. He waited for his turn, slowly creeping forward in the line. When someone from the tournament flagged the next car to come forward to pick up an arriving player, Zakaria eased the car forward.
When he got out to help the player with his luggage, take a wild guess who was standing on the curb waiting for a ride. Yes, you're right. It was Crane.