Nationwide Insider: Perks' big role in U.S. opener

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Craig Perks (right) walks with countryman Tim Wilkinson before the 2009 THE PLAYERS.
March 23, 2011
John Dell, Nationwide Tour Insider

If you are looking for Craig Perks to be bitter about the game of golf, you better keep looking.

For Perks, who won the 2002 PLAYERS Championship for his lone PGA TOUR win, he is enjoying what he calls the second stage of his career in the game he fell in love with growing up in New Zealand.

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Perks will be very busy this week at the Nationwide Tour's Chitimacha Louisiana Open near Lafayette, La. It's the Nationwide Tour's domestic debut, and Perks will be wearing many different hats.

Since his retirement from the PGA TOUR and competitive golf after the 2007 season it took awhile for Perks to come to grips with how his playing career ended. But it didn't take him long to embrace his new challenges as a teaching pro and as an analyst on the Golf Channel.

Perks, 44, is looking forward to putting on a good show for the Nationwide Tour players at the Golf Institute at LeTriomphe, a par-72 that measures just over 7,000 yards. He is the director of golf at LeTriomphe and is responsible for many of the details that go into putting on a first-class tournament.

"This has been a traditional stop on the Nationwide Tour for a long time and I remember playing here when I was on that tour," said Perks, who played on the Nationwide Tour for three years before going on to the PGA TOUR. "The members here and the members on the board are very excited about this week and so am I."

Perks said when he was a player he took for granted how hard it was to put on a tournament.

"I was a player for 15 years and never really realized how the tournaments are put on each week but now that I'm outside the ropes and see what it all entails is exciting to me," Perks said. "I know here at our club we are trying to make sure everything is in order so the players have a memorable experience."

Because Perks is slated to be on the air for 13 Nationwide Tour events for the Golf Channel he'll also be paying close attention to the competition. Perks will also work for the Golf Channel in seven PGA TOUR events.

He's going to try and learn everything he can about the Nationwide Tour players, and try to get as much information that he'll no doubt use at some point during the season.

In between his duties as the director of golf Perks will spend time on the range, especially early in the week, getting to know the players as much as possible.

"As a former player, I know that when the guys are on the range they are working hard to get better so I don't want to be bothering them or pestering them," said Perks, who wound up earning just over $3.4 million in his PGA TOUR career. "I'll try to get some tidbits of information instead of just finding out how far they can hit a 7-iron."

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Perks has already started studying up on the newer players on tour and stays in close contact with Joe Chemycz, who handles the media for the Nationwide Tour and travels to just about every tournament.

"I get constant updates from Joe from week to week and that helps me immensely in staying current," Perks said.

One of the luxuries Perks enjoys now that he isn't playing competitively is getting more time at home with his wife, Maureen, and their two kids. They have a daughter in high school and a son who is in the sixth grade.

While he'll be on the road for 20 weeks for his television work the time he gets at home is invaluable.

"Lafayette is home for us and we've been here 23 years," Perks said. "And it's such a big thing after all those years on the road playing to be able to stay in one place like we have done."

Perks says that despite the downward spiral of his playing career soon after he won THE PLAYERS Championship he insists he isn't bitter. He said he made some mistakes in trying to change his swing so he could get more distance.

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"Hindsight is 20/20 as we all know but I made the mistake with the expectation level after that win," Perks said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself and when you see the names on the trophy such as Nicklaus, Hal Sutton, Greg Norman and Tiger I just never thought my name quite fit and I tried to get better and change some things."

Perks said that as professional athletes the goal is to get better.

"You try to improve and I went about it the wrong way and it affected me," Perks said.

By 2007 he was nearing the end of his five-year exemption on the PGA TOUR for winning THE PLAYERS, and that season he played in 18 tournaments and made just one cut.

One of the reasons Perks has been very well received on Golf Channel telecasts is he can relate to just about every player in pro golf. He was once one of the best players in the game and he can also know the struggles that can follow.

Even though it's been nine years since his greatest accomplishment, Perks still gets letters requesting autographs and he hears from others at airports about his near-legendary back nine at THE PLAYERS.

All Perks did was chip in for eagle on the 16th, then made a 30-footer for birdie on the 17th before chapping in for par on 18 to beat Stephen Ames by two shots.

"It's kind of heartwarming to hear the stories," Perks said. "A lot of people feel compelled to tell me where they were when it I had those two chip-ins on that three-hole stretch.

"And I think that helps with my creditability on the air when I'm talking about other players and what they might be thinking.... I fell down a pretty steep slope pretty quickly but that kind of shows you that the game of golf can be very unpredictable."

John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 17 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at johndell@triad.rr.com.

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