by Jeff Skinner
We are all still basking in the glow of a great Masters this past week. Sunday’s final round was all a golf fan could ask for. We watched the two best players in the world charge toward the lead. Phil and Tiger’s match play was unbelievable. They kept us screaming for sixteen holes. In the other tournament going on at the same time Kenny Perry was playing the par game all the way home. On twelve and fifteen he finally birdied to get in red numbers for the day. On sixteen he hit a tee shot that finished less than a foot from the hole. It was his shot of the day: a sure bird to put him two up with two the play. He could be excused for thinking that this was his time, his day to be a Masters Champion, his turn to be the hero. It was not to be. He stumbled over the last two holes and Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell caught him and Cabrera eventually won the playoff.
Perry was crushed; you saw it on his face and heard it in his words. “I lost this tournament” he said. Without any hesitation he sincerely congratulated Cabrera and then tried to put his thoughts into words for the hundreds of press looking for their story. This was not an easy time for Perry. He had just lost a tournament he should have won, missed out on a golfer’s ultimate dream win and dealt with his family that was sobbing for him. It was then that Perry actually hit his best shot of the day, probably of his career.
Kenny Perry answered each question openly and thoughtfully. He gave insightful and emotional responses to the most difficult questions an athlete could ever have to answer. It was painful and difficult for him. He had just watched his career defining win disappear with a botched chip and a hooked iron. It never crossed his mind to not answer all the questions. It never occurred to him that he could cut it short and walk out like many athletes do when the questions are tough and the answers are tougher. He would say all he could to whoever asked and be honest and truthful and considerate.
Anyone who watched and listened to Perry had to be struck by the character and integrity of a man so hurt at this time but still so willing to talk about it. He was a stand up guy, a man of character, a man who is the personification of the morals and virtues that we all value.
He does not realize it but his words have hit home to golf fans across the world. I watched him answer those questions and marveled at the honesty and straight forwardness of a man so comfortable with his life he said,” If this is the worst thing that happens in my life, my life is pretty good. It really is.” I was not the only one fascinated by his words. Mark Reason in The Telegraph calls him “a great man.” Mike Lopresti of the Gannett News Service said “Perry’s poise in defeat is a lesson for other athletes.” Perry has been receiving accolades around the world. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Thomas Boswell calls this Perry’s finest hour. Writing for The Independent in London, James Lawton writes that Perry displayed humanity at a time when it would have crushed others.
In losing the Masters on Sunday, Kenny Perry displayed character, humility and dignity. These traits are seldom seen in the world of millionaire athletes. We need more men to act like Kenny Perry.
Tiger and Phil may have captured our imagination during the tournament and Angel Cabrera is the winner of the Masters but neither is the hero of the Masters. He did not win the green jacket or the million dollar paycheck, but Kenny Perry was the real hero of the Masters. He won the hearts and admiration of millions of people around the world. Kenny Perry: Masters Hero. He may have preferred “winner” but he’ll have to settle for hero. Kenny Perry: Masters Hero 2009. That fits him perfectly.