New dad takes winning ways to Malaysia for title defense

Laury Livsey/PGA TOUR
Ben Crane brought his father, Doug, to Malaysia this week and the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic.
October 26, 2011
Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR staff

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- When we last left Ben Crane, he was seen holding the trophy and the big check that came with winning The McGladrey Classic.

Since that victory in Sea Island, Ga., Crane became a father for a third time, hosted a Lightning McQueen birthday party at his home in Texas and hopped a couple of flights that brought him to Southeast Asia to defend his title at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia. An assortment of pals that included his dad, Doug, and his caddie, Joel Stock, came along for the ride.

Pretty adventurous 10 days, really.

"It's certainly surreal," Crane agreed.

When he walked off the Seaside Course following Saturday's third round at The McGladrey Classic, Crane trailed Michael Thompson by five strokes and was tied for ninth. He figured he would play out the string on Sunday, grab a flight back to Texas that night and be ready for his wife's C-section scheduled Monday morning.

"Really going into the final round, I didn't have a thought of winning," he said. "I wanted to finish off the year with a good round, and obviously my mind was more on the baby and the birth than anything else. I think I wasn't as focused on the golf, and that might have freed me up a little bit."

Crane's parents were in Texas helping his wife, Heather, with the couple's two children, Cassidy and Brayden. After checking the computer to see how Crane started his final round -- with seven consecutive pars, the last coming on a par 5 -- the Cranes figured any shot at a comeback had ended. So they headed out for a little shopping.

"He had pars going. Par, par, par, par, par," Doug Crane recalled. "So we went off to Target. Well, all of a sudden I'm watching the scores on my iPhone and I say, 'Hey, that putt went in.' And then another."

An 8-foot birdie putt at No. 8. A 6-footer at No. 9, followed by an 11-footer at the 10th and a 21-footer at the 11th. Crane bogeyed the 12th, seemingly ending the momentum. But then he made four consecutive birdies and a par on the 18th to finish with a 63.

"Obviously I played one of the best stretches of golf I've ever played," Crane said. "Eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch was something I certainly will never forget."

Brayden, the Cranes' almost 3-year-old son, had seated himself on a stool right in front of the TV as the drama unfolded, and the youngster didn't move for about an hour while Dad was putting on a show.

Yet even with the final-round heroics, Crane was ready to drive to Jacksonville, Fla., right after the round to catch a flight to Texas in advance of the baby's birth. After signing his scorecard and realizing a playoff was possible, though, Crane spoke to McGladrey Classic tournament host Davis Love III. Before long, Love had arranged for a private jet to ferry Crane to Texas from St. Simon's Island, win or lose.

"I already had tipped the locker room guys before the round," Crane said. "... I was totally packed and ready. Joel was going to pull up my car as soon as I signed my card. But then I thought, I better not leave just yet."

Turns out that was a very good decision. The playoff did happen, and Crane won, edging Webb Simpson on the second playoff hole for his fourth career TOUR title.

At the conclusion of the overtime session, Crane flew to Fort Worth's Alliance Airport, which is 15 minutes from Crane's house. On the flight, he enjoyed a glass of Caymus Special Select, a gift from fellow TOUR pro Jonathan Byrd. Without a jetway at the airport, Crane watched as the plane's door came up and the portable stairs approached. As he got to the door, he looked down and there was his dad.

"It was rock-and-roll time," Doug Crane said. "I lifted him up and twirled him around. I was just so pumped. It was a thrill for me just to be there when he got off the plane.

"And then they had the baby. It was a spectacular 24 hours. They don't come any better than that."

Crane was similarly affected. "I jumped into his arms, and he gave me a big hug and spun me around. We were just celebrating, and it was a moment I'll never forget," he said.

Once at home, the Cranes hung out and prepared to add No. 3 to the mix, a daughter named Saylor Mackenzie. "Had we had a boy, we were going to make his middle name McGladrey. That would have been cool," Crane said with a smile.

Next on the agenda was Brayden's Lightning McQueen birthday party on Saturday, complete with a bounce house and a cake in the shape of the character from "Cars." But the next day planes took Ben and Doug Crane halfway around the world to Malaysia -- eight hours to London and another 11 to Kuala Lumpur, where the memories came flooding back as soon as Crane arrived.

Now father and son are in adjoining hotel rooms here, staying a 20-minute drive from The Mines Resort and Golf Club, where Crane defeated Brian Davis by a stroke a year ago. They're quick to point out they're also wearing the clothes they packed.

"We got to Malaysia Monday morning at 8 o'clock," Crane explained. "Jonathan Byrd was on my flight, and I'm standing next to him at the luggage carousel. And none of his stuff shows up, and mine does. He came through Atlanta to London, and I went from Dallas there. So I guess that's the reason I got my bags, and he didn't."

Hey, when you're hot, you're hot.