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January 29 2011

6:38 PM

Perez making a move

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Don't look now but another one of San Diego's favorite sons has made his way onto the leaderboard at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Pat Perez, who beat Tiger Woods by four at the 1993 Junior Worlds here at Torrey Pines, has just birdied the sixth hole, his second of the day, and is 7 under for the tournament.

Perez's father, Tony, is a long-time tournament volunteer who announces the players at the first tee. His son teed off at 11:40 a.m. ET, and after Tony introduced him, he turned his palms upwards and playfully encouraged the applause.

Before Pat exited the tee box, the 34-year-old took his sweatshirt off and handed it to Tony for safekeeping. Once a son, always a son.

Perez, who worked at Torrey Pines from the time he was 13 until he left for college at Arizona State, has played in the Farmers Insurance Open every year since 2002 – a year after the course he grew up playing was redesigned. He has one top-10, a tie for sixth in 2005.

Perez said he used to be the "go-fer" at Torrey Pines. He cleaned carts, picked up balls outside the range, prepared baskets of practice balls -- basically anything that was needed. With his considerable playing skills, he also was a popular addition to any foursome.

"They always wanted me on their team," Perez said in an interview prior to the 2008 U.S. Open. "A young kid, thinks they can't play. We did a lot of money games out here. It got heated at times and it was fun. I had five dollars in my pocket, but I'd always leave with money. It was a great learning experience for me." 

Even though Perez did odd jobs around the course, though, he still had to jockey for position like everyone else when he came to play at the popular municipal facility. And just like at New York's famed Bethpage Black, that meant some very early wake-up calls.

"We had some help in the starter's booth, but we still had to get a number," Perez recalled. "We'd get here about 1, 2 in the morning and you've got to get a number from the guy. So if you were early you had to wait until someone else showed up and then you got your number and then you could go to sleep and set your alarm for 5:30. And then everyone would go in the coffee shop, get a drink or get something to drink. And then everyone would form a line across the top balcony up there. And it was one after another went off, and tee off at 6:30 and that was the kind of day. And then I'd go to work after that.

"I loved it. As a kid, you're getting out of the house, you got more freedom. I loved it. I wouldn't do it now, but it was fun at the time."

So is the way he’s playing this week. – Helen Ross

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