- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HONOLULU (AP) - Gary Christian is among 11 players at the Sony Open who are playing on the PGA Tour for the first time.

It’s a route to the big leagues unlike the others.

He worked as a pension administrator outside London when he finished high schools, two miserable years spared only by the fact his office was down the street from a pub, where he could extend his lunch hour.

He somehow landed at Auburn, where he couldn’t understand the fascination of “alleged amateur American football” until he was invited to his first tailgate party.

When he decided to see if he was good enough to play golf for a living, he supported himself by going door-to-door selling steak knives. And after toiling 15 years in the minor leagues, the 40-year-old finally gets his shot.

It all began to sink in Tuesday when he went out to the range and found himself next to Vijay Singh, a three-time major champion.

“He’s a big bugger, isn’t he?” Christian said.

Christian is not lacking a sense of humor, or any measure of perspective. He attributes that to his heritage.

English people tend to be more realistic,” he said. “They don’t have as many people telling them how great they are. Usually, they have people telling them how bad they are. At the end of every year, I looked myself in the mirror and said, `Am I getting better?’ And every year, without hesitation, I said, `Yes.’

“I would have never kept playing the game if I knew I couldn’t progress beyond a certain level,” he said. “If my goal was to make the Nationwide Tour and make the cut a few times, I would have quit 10 years ago. My goal was specific _ to get to the Nationwide Tour, play well, win, develop tools necessary to get on the PGA Tour, and stay on the tour.”

Now that he’s finally here, there’s only one step left.

The Sony Open begins Thursday as the first full-field of the 2012 season. Mark Wilson is the defending champion. Steve Stricker is coming off a three-shot win last week at Kapalua.

The buzz along the shores of Waikiki comes from so much optimism, mostly from players who are just starting out after getting their cards through Q-school or the Nationwide Tour.

Harris English has one thing in common with Christian _ this is his first PGA Tour event.

Christian was pouring drinks in a pub at the same age English was winning a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur. English went on to fulfill his dream of playing in the Walker Cup last year, then barely broke a sweat in both stages of Q-school to earn his card.

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