How Wichita Open has special Father’s Day meaning for PGA Tour winner Ben Crane

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/Korn Ferry Tour

Wichita is seemingly a small blip in the long and successful golf career of Ben Crane.

It was 24 years ago when Crane, a young and eager golfer from Portland, Oregon, became the first Monday qualifier to win the Wichita Open, claiming the 2000 title when the tournament was still on the Tour and played at Willowbend Golf Club.

“Wichita is kind of where my career took off,” Crane said. “It’s a very special place to me because it was the beginning of a lot of really good golf for me.”

It was the first victory in the professional career of Crane, who went on to become a five-time champion on the PGA Tour and rack up more than $21 million in career earnings.

In his return to Wichita to play in the same tournament that launched his career, the 48-year-old Crane is experiencing another first this week: having his 15-year-old son, Brady, caddie for him.

Golf has taken him to different countries all over the world, but Wichita, of all places, has become a place of meaning for Crane.

“It’s just so special to have (my son) here,” said Crane, holding back tears. “It’s just a fun week; even before we teed off (Thursday), I said to him, ‘I’m just so pumped you’re here. Even if we shoot 80, it’s going to be so fun to do this together.’ He said, ‘Whoa, I wouldn’t go that far.’”

Crane played like he had some of that 2000 magic bottled up on Thursday when he shot a 5-under 65 to fall 1 shot off the leaders. But he’s since fallen out of the hunt, shooting a 1-under round of 69 on Friday and an even-par score of 70 on Saturday to land in a tie for 51st place entering Sunday’s final round.

But this week was never really about chasing another title for Crane, who is playing the Korn Ferry Tour event to keep sharp in preparation for the Champions Tour, where he will have exempt status from his success on the PGA Tour, when he turns 50.

“I’m really just trying to get tournament reps because they’re so different than the reps you get from around your own club,” said Crane, who now lives in Nashville. “Brady loves the game now, so we actually practice a lot together and that’s encouraged me a lot to want to practice more.”

Brady, a sophomore in high school, has developed his own love for the game through watching his father and playing on his own.

“I’ve always looked up to him,” Brady said. “Having him as a dad is pretty cool because a lot of junior golfers don’t get to see professional golf like this. And then he obviously knows a lot, so you can ask him about any shot. It puts some pressure on you to be a good golfer, but it’s just really cool.”

Given his son’s interest in the sport, Crane has turned the week in Wichita as an example of how to prepare for a professional tournament.

“It’s just sweet that he loves golf,” Crane said. “So I want to make sure he understands the Tour game and how to play on Tour. How we pick targets, how we prepare, how to grocery shop, how to check into the AirBNB. We get up three hours before tee time and start the process of warming up. He’s helped me so much this week by just being engaged in the practice sessions, the chipping sessions, the putting sessions. It’s just a lot of fun to do all of this stuff together.”

Having a 15-year-old, first-time caddie also made for some laughs, part of an experience that father and son will always cherish.

“The caddie whose player is putting last is supposed to take the pin, well, Brady doesn’t know caddie etiquette,” Crane said while laughing. “On the second hole, (another caddie) took the pin and swings it over to Brady for him to take it. And Brady has his hands in his pockets, and he’s like, ‘What’s this guy doing?’ I had to be like, ‘Sorry, he’s allergic to fiberglass.’”