Featured Golf News
Crane Discusses Season, Bubba's Shot & Golf Boys
Ben Crane has enjoyed a steady 2012 season. In 10 events the 36-year-old from Portland, Ore., has recorded three top-10 finishes and four in the top-25, earning $1,268,431 on the year. Crane has accrued four career PGA Tour wins, with his most recent last October in the McGladrey Classic when he beat Webb Simpson in a playoff.
The shave-headed player has made almost as much news off the course as on thanks to his leadership of the "Golf Boys," a musical group that also includes Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan.
The four PGA Tour regulars have seen their videos go viral on You Tube, not only those with music but with Crane spoofing various elements of golf, including slow play, his pre-tournament workouts, and his home "golf studio." For a player known for his staunch Christianity - and early in his career for slow play, the videos refreshingly show an altogether different side to the former University of Oregon star.
Crane will be joined in this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans - which starts Thursday at TPC Louisiana - by Watson and Fowler; only Mahan is not entered in the $6.4 million tournament.
On Tuesday, Crane met with the media and discussed his season to date, the "Golf Boys," his charity work in New Orleans to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and friendship with Watson, who won a thrilling Masters three weeks ago. Here's what Crane had to tell reporters.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Ben Crane to the interview room at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. I know you're taking part in the Throwback Challenge today at 4:00. We'll talk about that in a minute, but if you could talk about your year to date. I know you had two or three top 10s early in the year and now your first start since I believe a top 20 at Augusta. Just talk a little bit about your year to this point and then we'll talk a little bit about what's going on at 4:00.
BEN CRANE: Yeah, it's been a great start to the year for me. I've been close a number of times and feel like my game has been pretty much good all year. My ball striking has been good, my short game has been great, so yeah, I'm just really pleased and I feel like the things I'm working on are - have been paying off, and just working a lot on my putting and my wedges, and it's really helped me. And then I had a great week at the Masters. I had a chance there certainly after the first day, but all in all, playing really well.
MODERATOR: Just talk about what's going on today at 4:00 with the Throwback Challenge. I know there are a number of y'all playing with some vintage clubs, playing a three hole shootout. If you could talk about that and expand on what the proceeds are going to benefit.
BEN CRANE: Yeah, so this is celebrating 100 years of Zurich in New York America, which we're amazed it's been so stable for 100 years, and then how cool is it that we get to kind of represent the 100 years - we're kind of going back 100 years and what golf used to be like, and so a bunch of us had outfits made up, and I'm really excited. Marty is going to help me tie my bowtie that I'm going to work on in the locker room, and yeah, Hugo Boss made me sweet knickers and an unbelievable hat.
So we're going to play with some hickory clubs and old balls, and I hope they tee us off from the ladies tees because last I checked the ball goes further these days. Yeah, I'm just excited to get out there with these guys and have a lot of fun and do something completely different than what we normally do.
MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about your approach this week. You came off your best career finish here a year ago. Talk a little bit about this golf course and then we'll open it up to questions.
BEN CRANE: Yeah, someone asked me who didn't know a lot about golf, so you're playing those in the tournament? I'm like, oh, my gosh. If I played with them in the tournament, I don't know. I think I'd shoot 100, I'm not sure. It would actually be kind of fun to play one round to see if you could - I don't know if you could break 90. I'm not sure, just as long as this golf course is. I'll know more after we play three holes today, but I'm guessing the ball is going to go, full swing, 180 yards maybe.
Yeah, this is a big week for me, sponsored by Zurich and having so many friends here with Zurich. This is a special week. And then St. Bernard Project is a project that's very dear to my wife and my heart. We went and did a little bit of work yesterday with one of the houses that they're fixing up and putting together, and just there's so many people still not back in their homes. They're refining their process, just like I'm refining my golf process. They're refining how they rebuild houses and put people back in their houses and stuff. Zurich is just amazing at giving back, and they have done an unbelievable job of that here in New Orleans and worldwide. It's very fun to be affiliated with Zurich in that way.
Q. Your Golf Boys videos have really given lie to the stereotype of golfers as straight-laced, boring people. Do you get a sense that people are knowing you now from those videos? And I understand you were the ringleader. Can you just talk about the genesis of this whole Golf Boys idea?
BEN CRANE: Yeah, the guys all individually approached me and wanted to do a video, and I had put a few out, so we just kind of were all at dinner one night and said, hey, let's do a video together. We kind of got the boy band idea going, and so we came up with all sorts of names. We were like, hey, let's go 99 Degrees, one degree hotter. We were just like naming - then we're like, okay, it has to be something everyone will know. People might not know that we're golf players so that would give it a little context. It's been so fun.
Now at the Masters Teddy and Bubba and I and Joel were talking about how many ooh-da-lolly-lollies we hear during the course of a round, like what's our average count. It's taken on a whole life of its own, and it's been super-fun.
And then obviously having Hunter play so well this year and then Bubba won the Masters, that's pretty good. I mean, that's kind of put it out there even more, and so yeah, it's pretty cool that - I think for a while there was a statement that, well, these guys should be working on their golf game and they're like out there having fun, like that can't be productive, like go spend some time working on your golf game.
And now everyone is playing pretty well, especially Hunter and Bubba, so I think they can if we don't play as well going forward, they can always say, well, maybe you need to go back to having more fun. They're always going to say something like that. I think it helps us to not take ourselves quite so seriously and have fun. Yeah, it's been awesome.
Q. Can you talk about how you got involved with St. Bernard?
BEN CRANE: Yeah, I got to know the St. Bernard project - I started out, my passion for New Orleans, the city, and Katrina was - I came here six months after the storm or a few months after the storm in '05, and our family stayed at one of the local churches, and we were here for seven days, and we'd just go out, deploy our group of about 30 people and we were just gutting houses because the houses were so filled with water that the sheet rock for the most part would just fall off of the studs.
You'd walk in the houses, and we walked in actually to a house with someone who hadn't been back in their house yet, and just like you left your house last time you left, your coach and TV and everything is sitting there, and then all of a sudden all this sheetrock - the whole place had just like fallen down, and there's mildew, and the smell is just horrible. So anyway, our families spent - we're having to go into these houses with gas masks on and just trying to literally bring everything out and hope that they can save the studs.
Anyway, that's kind of where we first got involved with Katrina was right after the storm. Then came to the New Orleans tournament, Zurich. It was connected with the St. Bernard Project, which is the St. Bernard parish kind of was affected mightily by the storm, and so just started getting to know Zach and Liz and just what they do, which is people come in, put their name on a list and say, we need to get back in our house, can you help us.
The St. Bernard Project brings together volunteers who want to help and trains them if they need to be trained and puts them with teams, and they - right now it's probably taken them less than 60 days to really get someone back in a house, which is - starting from almost the studs in a lot of these houses. So they're working two shifts on each house. Toyota has actually really helped them refine their process of doing a morning shift and an evening shift on the house, and they have leaders of the teams, and it's just phenomenal. So I went yesterday and worked a little bit with the project, and I actually floored a closet. I was on my knees just using a Skil saw and hammering the little pieces of wood into place. It was like totally fun. They were like, hey, if you've got to go - I'm like, no, I'm finishing this closet.
You've got to put the right pieces of wood together, and you've got to cut the right size of board, and a couple times I'm like, yep, I cut the wrong size of board, I've got to start over. But it was great. I love what the St. Bernard project is doing, and we're just - my wife and I and Zurich are just very passionate about helping the people here because they want to come back. Really a lot of areas, it's only about a 25 percent return rate. Think about it, you go through some of these neighborhoods, and where there used to be four houses now there's one. And this is their home.
Q. A two part question: Why did you choose to follow Bubba during the Playoffs instead of just watching it on TV? And what was going through your mind during those two holes?
BEN CRANE: Rickie and I were in the caddie area watching Bubba with four holes to play and saying, hey, we kept looking at each other like, he's got a chance, he's got a chance. Rickie was in casual clothes, and I said, buddy, you'd better change. You'd better look presentable if we got out. And so once it became clear that he was going to have a chance - we knew the situation, obviously. We knew that Angie was at home, she wasn't able to come out because of the situation with their baby, and so we just wanted to go out and support our friend who we love.
So that's one of the best things about being on Tour, about winning tournaments, about - just the fellowship out here, the community. It's so fun when your friends - to do it with your friends. People ask me what's the highlight of your career. For me it's not like a victory, it's doing it with my friends and family and doing it for the right reasons, which is to glorify God. So Rickie and I just - we were so excited for Bubba, and we thought, gosh, we've got to go, and we talked a couple other members into giving us a ride down once they played 18 again, then we went down around through kind of the field of the middle of Augusta there and came around the back door and were able to get a good spot on No. 10. Anyway, so it was -
Q. How far away were you when he hit that shot?
BEN CRANE: We were behind the green, so if you're playing the hole, we were back left of the green, and we heard him hit the shot. I'm like, oh, gosh, is that right at us? Your reaction is like, oh, it's going to hit you. You always think the ball is coming right at you, right? It started out, I'm going, oh, boy, this is way off line, and all of a sudden it put on the blinker. But I wasn't watching the ball at this point. I'm just like ducking, right? Fight or flight, right? And then all of a sudden people started clapping. I'm like, what? I look up and I see the ball, like oh, my gosh. Obviously it will be one of the greatest shots of our era to be hit. Just an incredible shot. Anyway, so we were behind the green ducking.
Q. What makes you want to be there for your friend?
BEN CRANE: Well, I think there's a number of us out here who say that our first priority is to walk with a person of Jesus and know who he was, know what he said and we believe everything he said was true, and every time we apply it to our life, it works. It doesn't mean life is easy, but it does mean that it's more fun. There's peace. There's understanding. There's joy. And there's great relationship and fellowship amongst us.
We really just have the same priorities, and Bubba has put a really good team of people around him, of people who all love the Lord. Angie was very purposeful about doing that, encouraging him to do that. He's incredibly grounded in his faith. Yeah, that's something that I admire about him. I think it's pretty easy to get off track when you have a lot of success and think that that's what it's all about.
MODERATOR: Ben, thanks so much for your time. Play well this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.