News & ToursMarch 11, 2009

'The world worked the way it's supposed to'

Rich Contreras, 53, is the outside services manager at Valencia (Calif.) Country Club, site of this week's AT&T Champions Classic, a Champions Tour event. He fixes clubs and golf carts and runs the driving range, among other duties. He's harbored a dream of playing in a tour event since he was a kid.

His dream died on Monday, when he made a nine on his last hole of Monday qualifying to fail to make the field for the AT&T. Then it was resuscitated when Valencia's head pro Craig Cliver pulled him aside and told him he had received a sponsor exemption.

"Contreras made sure Cliver wasn't joking around, then leaned his head on a tree planter and cried," Jill Painter writes in her moving story on Contreras in the Los Angeles Daily News. "He called his wife, Carrie, and then his dad, Thomas, the man who introduced him to the game."

PGA Tour player Jason Gore is a member at Valencia. He was teary when he gave Contreras a congratulatory bear hug. Gore later sent him a text message and said he wanted to caddie for him.

"The world worked the way it was supposed to," Cliver said.

-- John Strege

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