by Jeff Skinner
I was at the Travelers Championship this weekend when the skies finally cleared on Sunday to allow the boys on the tour to take dead aim at the flags on The TPC Highlands. Kenny Perry once again showed that he is not only a uniquely talented player but also a very sincere and humble man.
Kenny Perry’s victory at the Travelers Championship takes him another step closer to his goal of twenty career wins. Perry is forty eight years old, but he certainly doesn’t act his age. This is Perry’s eleventh victory since he turned forty. Most PGA players at forty eight are making reservations for The Champions Tour. The only reservations Perry is concerned with are for the Victory Ceremony at the next PGA Tour stop. He won on Sunday with a tournament record 22 under par. His 258 ties him with the fourth best 72 hole score in PGA history. Why would he even think about moving to The Champions Tour when he his racking up multiple wins on the PGA Tour? He won three times last season, this is his second win this year and he’s looking for more. He said:
” I’m making people think a little bit. Still, six more wins is a lot of wins. You know, I’ve won three last year, two this year already. Who knows? If I get hot again, get on a little streak, sneak in two more by the end of the year, might be very realistic. But as I said before, it was pretty unrealistic goal. I just kind of threw that number out there to see everybody roll their eyes in the back of their head. But it is a goal of mine. I may not ever reach it and if I don’t, that’s fine. My career’s been unbelievable, the things I’ve been able to accomplish. But that keeps me working each day, keeps me going back to work.”
In the interview after his win, when asked to comment on his day on the course, his first word is “Unbelievable” and then he begins to talk about the family that he has stayed with for the last twenty one years when he comes to Connecticut.
“Unbelievable. I mean to say you want to win something and then to actually achieve it is a great feeling. I just hate it took me so long to do it. Steve (Kirsch is the hosting family) would always get onto me. I stay with three families. I won in Phoenix, the FBR, Bill Scott, and the Eastlake in Muirfield. I won those two events. I never could win this win. So he always would get on my case about I guess his cooking wasn’t good enough. It would always upset my stomach or something. No. They’re all in the back, back there, (in the press room) so I’m giving them a hard way to go. But it’s just a special week for me. We’ve played games. I’ve watched their kids grow up. They’ve got three grandchildren now. And it’s just a neat week for me. We just grill out and hang out. We just have so much fun, and it makes the week very special, and no matter how I play, I always look forward to coming here each and every year. So other than that, I’ve been fighting each year to try to do something special here, and it finally showed up today.
Steve and Martha Kirsch (are the hosts). I was a rookie, and was broke, needed a place to stay, and they were going to keep Jay Haas that week and Jay said no. So they said they’d take the rookie with no money, and I’ve never left. I’ve been a bum ever since.”
That’s Kenny Perry. He just won over a million bucks and his fourteenth career victory, and he is recognizing the family that he lives with for one week a year when he plays this tournament. I spoke to the Kirsch’s and when I said that they hit the jackpot with a guy like Kenny they said, “We hit the jackpot twenty one years ago.” Is he really that nice? “Oh, you can’t believe how nice he is.” With this win Perry has gone over the $30 million mark for his career. Do you think he needs free room and board for the week? I don’t think so. He stays with the Kirsch’s because he likes them, is comfortable with them and likes the family atmosphere. He’s a simple guy that loves his family and friends and happens to be the seventh ranked golfer in the world. He says he felt the support from the fans on Sunday.
“I fed off the energy of the crowd today. I had so many people pulling for me all over the golf course. To me that’s never happened. That Augusta thing, even though I lost, I had won over a lot of fans. I definitely felt it from Colonial, Memorial, all the tournaments I’ve played since Augusta, a lot of people have, Ryder Cup has meant a lot to me, and done for me, so my fan base has grown a hundred fold since all that’s happened. It’s been unbelievable.”
Perry said he learned from The Augusta meltdown and was determined to play aggressive all day. When I asked him if he thought he “won over” fans from his play on the course at Augusta or for the way he handled himself in defeat he said:
“Well, I guess everybody loves the interview. Everybody I hear talks about my interview afterwards, how I handled the loss and how I talked about it, and you know, there’s a lot more important things in life. My mother’s got multiple myeloma cancer. My sister’s got breast cancer. There’s a lot of sickness in my family. We’re struggling. Sandy’s mom’s not doing very well. She’s 80 years old. She’s broke her back. She doesn’t get around anymore. So you know, I’m just going to enjoy life right now. I’m going to try to help as many people as I can along the way, and I’m not going to worry too much about wins and losses and we’re going to enjoy life a little bit.”
Kenny Perry realizes that there are more important things in life than golf and he isn’t shy about saying so. You can see the sincerity in his eyes and here the emotion in his voice. He is right: he won over plenty of fans at The Masters and golf isn’t the most important issue in his life. The issues he is dealing with are familiar to many of us and maybe that is what draws us to him. He has many of the same problems that we do and he comports himself like we all hope we would do in the same circumstances. He is an honest, sincere and moral man. He’s one of the good guys, and he’s looking forward to his next win: only six more to go for his twenty.