PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
The Michigan school teacher that was hit by a Kenny Perry ball may return for Ally Challenge
She still recalls the moment well years later and may be back at Warwick Hills next week
September 07, 2018
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 07, 2018
- Kenny Perry inadvertantly struck a spectator at the old Buick Open.
Linda Gealy, 61, has been to one professional golf event in her life.
But she came away with a story she has used at cocktail parties and coffee shops ever since.
"It’s a real icebreaker," Gealy said during a break between classes in Troy, Michigan, where she is an art teacher at Baker Middle School.
Her icebreaker also was a nose breaker. Gealy, then 50, was attending the PGA TOUR Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan, with her then-husband. He was the golf fan; she was just tagging along, minding her own business sitting in the grass beside the 16th fairway.
It was the first round of the 2007 tournament. Kenny Perry, who won the 2001 Buick Open and will return for next week’s PGA TOUR Champions Ally Classic at Warwick Hills, was in the midst of an indifferent opening 18 when he arrived at the 580-yard par 5. After hitting the fairway off the tee, his second shot, a 3-wood, began drifting right toward the gallery -- and right toward Gealy.
“I didn’t hear the ball off his club, but I recognized something was about to hit me when it was about 2 inches from my face,” Gealy recalled this week.
Perry’s ball hit Gealy flush on the nose and actually ricocheted back into the fairway. She was wearing impact-resistant cycling glasses, which almost assuredly saved her even more damage. As it was, her nose was broken and she went to the ground in a heap.
“It bled like something else,” Gealy said. “When Kenny came up his caddie kept trying to get him away from me.
“All I cared about was my nose. I was bleeding everywhere. My husband was going out of his mind. He was going, ‘Don’t make him feel bad.’”
Don’t make him feel bad? She was the one being taken out on a stretcher.
"It really shook me up," Perry told the Flint Journal. "I had only 70 yards to the hole and I yanked it dead left into a bunker. I was able to get it up and down and par the last two holes, but I couldn't get her out of my mind."
Perry, who finished with a 71, autographed Gealy’s pairings sheet. She still has it. It reads simply: “Sorry, Kenny Perry.”Here is the program that Kenny Perry signed.
While he was finishing up his round, she was being loaded into an ambulance.
“The ambulance people were hysterically funny,” Gealy said. “The one guy was calling in to the hospital and he says, ‘I don’t even know what to call it. Nose trauma?’”
Perry’s caddie got Gealy’s address and sure enough he followed up after he returned to his home in Kentucky and sent her flowers.
The tournament gave her and her husband passes to come back for the final round on Sunday, but with two black eyes by then to go with her broken nose she passed on the invite.
Gealy has loosely followed Perry’s career since. He returned to win the Buick Open in 2008, which was the next-to-last year it was played. It ran from 1958-2009, and it was played at Warwick Hills from 1978 on.
Tiger Woods won it three times, including the finale. Vijay Singh, who is expected to play in next week’s Ally Challenge, also won it three times.
Other past Buick Open champions who will return next week as the event makes its debut on PGA TOUR Champions include Scott Verplank, Billy Mayfair, Tom Pernice Jr., Rocco Mediate, Woody Austin and Larry Mize.
Perry, who had 10 top-10 finishes at the Buick, might have an old fan in attendance.
“I might just have to go so I can root for Kenny,” said Gealy, who added that her nose healed fine and she has never had any problems with it. “I never got to talk to him (in 2007). That would be pretty funny to meet him now."
Gealy said if she does attend she has learned some valuable lessons.
“Do not sit on the edge of the fairway, and pay attention when the marshals are waving their arms.”