CHAMPIONS TOUR INSIDER
Perry's last hurrah at Valhalla expects to be special
August 05, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Kenny Perry, a Kentucky native, is sure to receive plenty of fan support during the PGA Championship. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
For Kenny Perry, it will be the sweetest of good-byes. Sure, there will be some nerves Thursday morning when he tees it up at Valhalla Golf Club in the PGA Championship. But those will be nothing compared to the joy he is feeling this week.
Perry is going out in style. He could not have scripted it any better.
“Awesome, what a way to go out,” said Perry, who returns to his Kentucky home this week. “Most athletes who have a long career, you don't get to say goodbye the way you want to say goodbye. When your career's over, it's over.
“For me to go back to Valhalla, to go back to a golf course I've had a lot of history with -- a lot of disappointments and a lot of triumphs -- it’s a dream.”
Perry will return as a winner. He posted his second Champions Tour victory of the year at last week's 3M Championship.
He kicked off his big year in May by winning the Regions Tradition, the first of the Champions Tour majors. It was his third straight major title following the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS and the U.S. Senior Open in 2013. The victory at the Senior Open earned Perry a spot in this year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
He was hoping to replicate that success at the Senior PGA Championship to lock-up a place in this week’s event at Valhalla. He couldn’t pull it off but soon after the end of the Senior PGA at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Perry was granted an exemption into the championship.
“I don’t know how many tickets I’ll have to get,” said Perry, who is Kentucky born and bred. “I’ll have a lot of family, friends and I’ll get to say bye to all the people who supported me for the past 30 years on the PGA TOUR, to say thank you. So it’s perfect.”
Perry twice lost major championships in playoffs. The first of those came at Valhalla in the 1996 PGA Championship when he was beaten by Mark Brooks. At the 2009 Masters, Perry lost to Angel Cabrera.
Perry won 14 times on the PGA TOUR. Some of his finest hours came late in his career when he played outstanding golf and in the process qualified for the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team. The biennial competition was at Valhalla for the first time and the Americans posted a stirring triumph with Perry, the hometown hero, front-and-center as a veteran leader for Captain Paul Azinger.
“The disappointment (of losing to Brooks) was the lowest of the lows and the win (at the Ryder Cup) was the highest of the highs,” Perry said.
“And then to have the PGA Championship won, all I had to do was par the 18th hole and it's mine, just the same way I did the Masters. All I had to do was par the last hole and I couldn't get it done in either situation. Very low moments in my golfing career, but still the support I got afterwards from the fans and from the people was unbelievable.”
Perry knows there will be plenty of the same kind of encouragement when he arrives on the first tee at Valhalla for his 1:35 p.m. tee time Thursday. His playing partners for the first two rounds are Ryan Moore and Henrik Stenson.
“I'll be very nervous,” Perry said. “I'm sure it will be pretty loud. I'm sure there will be a lot of applause, I hope. Maybe I'm wrong. I definitely will feel the love of Kentucky, I'll definitely feel it the whole week. It kind of reminds me of Tom Watson, when you see Tom Watson maybe at a major or something when he was trying to win the British, you just feel the love of everybody wanting him to win. It will be kind of similar to that, I think.”
Perry went low at TPC Twin Cities to post his seventh career Champions Tour victory. He shot 23-under 193 for a 1-stroke victory over Bernhard Langer. Perry needed a 15-foot putt on the final hole to hold off Langer’s charge.
Perry spent most of three days before this week reacquainting himself with the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla layout.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” he said. “I want to be competitive.”
Perry wants his good-bye and his thank you to be perfect.