BRIDGEPORT — Rick Price says you can “call it what you want,” an omen, a miracle, whatever, but he had a hunch that this was going to be a week to remember from the moment he holed out his second shot of the $1 million Nationwide Players Cup for an eagle from 106 yards out.

What he didn’t have a hunch about was that he would win the tournament in a playoff with Chris Anderson despite losing those two strokes by bogeying the 18th hole twice in succession.

After taking advantage of Price’s bogey on the 72nd and final hole of regulation to finish in a tie at 273, 15 strokes under par, Anderson finally played a hole as you’d expect the man situated at No. 134 on the money list to play one, scuffing the ball around for a double-bogey in the playoff.

“I told friends that I like this golf course,” Price said of the Pete Dye Golf Club layout. “It suits my eye. I played well here before. I was well rested.”

In other words, all systems were go for Price right from the time he struck that wedge out of his first fairway (he started on No. 10 on Thursday) and had it spin back into the cup for an eagle.

It hasn’t been often that the veteran from the Reading, Pa., area who now plays out of Jupiter, Fla., can say that all systems were go. At age 40, he has been banging golf balls around golf courses in such far out places as the South African tour, looking for that proverbial diamond in the rough.

No fewer than 19 times did he try to reach the PGA Tour through its qualifying school and tournament, only to fail each time.

But now, with the $180,000 winners share in his pocket and earnings this year of $249,283 to rank third on the Nationwide Tour, he is virtually assured getting that long awaited PGA card that goes to the top 25 on the Nationwide money list.

“I imagine that’s enough money,” he said. “It’s always taken about $200,000 to get the card, so I don’t see why this year should be much different.”

And when the card is presented, it will represent a whole lot to him.

“It means I have money in the bank. It means I have an opportunity to play with the best players in the world. Bottom line, it means I’ve fulfilled my dream,” he said.

Not that it came easily as he battled eyeball to eyeball all day with Anderson, who entered the day a stroke back and who drew even but never could pass Price and take the lead.

Even if he had done it, Price wouldn’t have seen it.

See, every time Anderson had an important putt, Price literally turned a blind eye to him, turning his back so as to not watch the results.

“I didn’t want to worry about what anyone else was doing all week. I just concentrated on myself,” Price said.

So it was on No. 17, as Anderson rolled a birdie putt at the hole that could have given him the lead, Price stood across the green, leaning on his putter, his hand on his hip, looking completely away from the action.

Anderson missed.

It was no different when they came to No. 18. Both flew over the green, Price in a more difficult spot than Anderson, and neither made a particularly good chip out of the rough, Price eventually settling for a bogey.

Now Anderson had a 4-foot put to tie and again Price opted to look off in the distance rather than face the music. A miss would have given him the title.

He almost got that miss, too, as Anderson’s putt spun 360 degrees around the cup before gravity did its thing and pulled the ball into the hole for a par and tie after 72 holes.

Rain started falling as they began their playoff and, to be perfectly honest, they played the hole like they were playing for the championship of the Oswego, N.Y., city parks rather than for $1 million.

Price’s approach landed on a hillside between the green and a trap. He had an awkward stance and could do nothing with the shot, his flop wedge failing to flop and rolling 25 feet past the hole.

And that was the good shot.

Anderson had gone down into a trap but stayed out of the sand, in tall, tough grass. His shot flew past the pin and rolled over the green and into the rough.

Price got down in two for bogey. Anderson’s shot for a tying bogey has yet to go in the cup, as he walked over and shook Price’s hand after missing from 20 feet.

At long last, a man named Price who had paid the price now was stepping up to the big show at age 40.

“I don’t feel like I’m 40,” he said. “I just happen to have been doing this for a long time and not gotten out there on tour. I was one of the guys who had a good game and hadn’t made it. There’s a lot of guys like that. I just thought if I keep sticking with it, it will happen.”

And how long would he have stuck with it?

“Probably until I was 60,” he said.

He wasn’t kidding, either.

— E-mail:

bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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