Perez comes full circle at Conway Farms
After a disappointing collegiate experience, Perez returns to same course needing a good showing
September 16, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Pat Perez stands at No. 43 in the FedExCup standings entering the BMW Championship. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
In 1993, Pat Perez beat Tiger Woods at the Junior World Amateur. It was surely a sign of things to come from the brash but uber-talented Southern Californian who grew up picking range balls at Torrey Pines.
More than two decades later, Perez has one career win on the PGA TOUR (to Woods’ 79) and has still never made it to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
At this week’s BMW Championship outside Chicago, memories of Perez’s younger days coming flooding back. The last time the 39-year-old was at Conway Farms was Oct 7-8, 1996. It would unceremoniously be his last collegiate tournament for the Sun Devils.
"I was driving home and coach (Randy Lein) calls me and says, 'That’s too bad I wanted to talk to you,'" Perez recalls. "'I wanted to let you know that I’m not going to renew your scholarship.'"
The news was stunning to Perez, who a season earlier had helped the Sun Devils to a national championship. Lein, however, had a new crop of recruits and said there wasn’t a fit for Perez among the group.
By the following summer Perez was back home in San Diego. On the course, he was playing mini tour events and trying to make his way to the PGA TOUR. Off it, he was working for Gary Adams, who started McHenry Metals and was the original founder of TaylorMade.
Adams was fighting a losing battle with cancer and Perez did a multitude of things for him, from driving him around town to running clubheads and shafts up to Los Angeles two hours away sometimes twice a day.
Never far from the front of Perez’s mind, though, was the bad taste left in his mouth from how things ended with Lein. “It was motivation,” Perez said.
In 1999 Perez finished near the bottom of q-school. He sat in his car, he says, and remembers vowing next time would be different. Two years later, he earned medalist honors to get his card and hasn’t looked back.
Perez made a shade under $1.5 million in his rookie year on TOUR in 2002 and has topped the million-dollar mark a handful of times since, including this season. More importantly, he never lost his card.
Fast forward to this week at Conway Farms, which once again serves as a bit of a crossroads.
Perez is 43rd in the FedExCup standings. Only the top 30 will qualify for next week’s FedExCup Playoffs finale at East Lake.
Though he still has just one career win -- at the 2009 50th Bob Hope Classic -- Perez has been trending in the right direction in part to an attitude adjustment and some changes in his game.
In the last three years he has nine top 10s, which includes a fourth-place finish at Pebble Beach earlier this year and a tie for fifth at Colonial in May.
“I would hate to use the word patience, but I think I've just kind of gotten over, I don't know, I guess I get over things a little easier than I used to,” he said earlier this year. “I don't know if it's time. I don't know if it is lessons. I don't know if it's getting worn out by people. I don't know what it is. But I just look at things a little different.”
This year, Perez has been nothing if not consistent. In his last 13 events, he has made the cut a dozen times. In his last five starts, he has finished in the top 30 five times.
There is no cut at the 70-man BMW Championship and a good finish would get Perez through to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
First, however, he’ll have to get over Conway Farms. Perez tied for 28th at 16-over 229 that week in October of 1996.
He may have forgotten the result but not the outcome and the motivation the aftermath provided, something he could use one more time this week.
Inside the PGA TOUR
Pat Perez, revamped