PGA Championship Interview Transcript: Rod Perry
KELLY ELBIN: PGA Professional, Rod Perry, joining us at the 95th PGA Championship.
Rod won the 2013 PGA Professional National Championship in late June out at Sunriver Resort in Oregon, and he is the head PGA professional at Crane Lakes Golf & Country Club. Making your second straight PGA Championship appearance.
Welcome to Oak Hill and congratulations on the victory and what that means to represent a contingent of 20 PGA club professionals here at the season's final major.
ROD PERRY: Thank you very much.
KELLY ELBIN: Comments about your victory, you played well in the National Championship last year, a victory this year and then to be able to come back, gaining those berths back into the PGA Championship.
ROD PERRY: Yeah, it's obviously the biggest event I'll play all year right here, so not only helping represent the 20 club professionals here in the field, but then also I have got 200 golf members there at Crane Lakes. And in a small way, we're representing The PGA of America and the 20,000 members and apprentices that make up our association. It's a great honor.
KELLY ELBIN: Talk about your membership there at Crane Lakes. I know they are big supporters of you. Do you have some here this week? And those back in Port Orange, I'm sure they are going to be following you closely.
ROD PERRY: It's an awfully long trip from central Florida up here to northern New York, but I know for certain they will be watching, certainly on the television and on the computer. You know, they might not be here physically but they will definitely be watching.
Q. Talk about if you could the journey to get to be able to play up to the level, to win a national championship, I know it was a struggle for you first starting out and you missed the cut in your first PNC. Talk about that journey, if you could.
ROD PERRY: Yeah, there's obviously a lot of great players in The PGA of America, a lot of guys who play full time, and our club professionals it took a while for me to get comfortable playing within the ranks at the PGA. As time has gone by, I've slowly found my niche, if you will. It's turning out to be okay.
Q. Your second PGA Championship in a row, can you just talk about what you learned from the first experience that might help you here this week? And then also, do you feel any different being the national champion coming here as one of the 20 professionals, any different than it was last year?
ROD PERRY: Yeah, obviously, what you learned from Kiawah last year was the conditions were extremely difficult at Kiawah last year. The wind blew extremely hard.
You have to keep in mind that you're playing an extremely difficult golf course. It's not so much the relation to par that matters in these Majors. It's kind of how do you stand up to your own test, if you will. So you kind of set a benchmark on what you think is acceptable play and what you would like to achieve, and hopefully at the end of the week, that's good enough.
Q. Talk a little about finding the balance between running a business, which is the biggest thing that you do probably, and trying to be a competitive golfer.
ROD PERRY: Sure. Thankfully I'm at a very easy, laid back club, Crane Lakes Golf & Country Club there in Port Orange. Not only are my members extremely understanding of my pursuits and what I'm passionate about as far as playing the game, but then also my ownership, as well, and the people I report to.
As long as the golf course is in great shape and as long as the business is financially sound, then it's really kind of easy to get away. My members and my owners are certainly huge supporters of me in everything I do.
Q. How much golf do you play in an average week?
ROD PERRY: You know, I might play once. I kind of make a joke to a lot of the guys that playing on the Tour is my side job. I might play on a Friday afternoon with one of the member's groups or I might play in a section event maybe on a Monday or something like that. But I know there was a couple stints over the winter where two or three weeks would go by and I wouldn't play at all.
KELLY ELBIN: What's your preparation been like for this championship since you won at Sunriver? I would imagine you've been playing more than just once a week.
ROD PERRY: Yeah, at this time of the year in Florida is what we call our slow season; although I have a very active membership that plays year round. Certainly a lot of our north Florida PGA events occur during the summer.
We had our qualifier for the National Club Professional Championship last week in Orlando, and thankfully I was exempt and didn't have to worry about qualifying, but it was nice to compete for the two days as kind of prep for this event.
Q. Just talk about what it's like to be a club professional and to have this experience this week of playing with the greatest golfers in the world on a great golf course like Oak Hill.
ROD PERRY: Yeah, what a venue, what an unbelievable club, just in a beautiful part of the country. Certainly this time of the year it's beautiful. I don't know what it's like in January, February, March.
It's an honor to be here obviously. It's an honor to play such a great club where history will be made this week: Whether it's Tiger or whether it's Phil or whether it's someone winning their first major, it's just nice to be part of history.
Q. Can you talk about adjusting to the atmosphere here? I'm sure this is different than what you're used to, just the practice rounds, it's crazy out there on the range. I guess you don't get used to it but how do you prepare for that?
ROD PERRY: You know, fortunately, this isn't my first TOUR event. The PGA obviously last year, and then we have a number of TOUR events in our north Florida section that I've been fortunate enough to play in. So playing in front of galleries and playing in front of crowds is fine. It really doesn't bother me all that much.
I wish my galleries were as big as Tiger's, so if it were to bounce off one of the gallery members, it might come back in the fairway. My galleries aren't that big, so I have to hit the fairway.
It's just a great honor to be here obviously, but hope for the best.
Q. Just wondering, to play golf in Florida as much as you do, and then come up to the northeast where, of course, not only are the greens very different, the rough is very different, playing in an open championship like this at Oak Hill, how do you have to adjust mentally, as well as your game?
ROD PERRY: We don't have grass like this in Florida. I think we are all accustomed to Florida grass being bermuda. It certainly doesn't get this tall or this thick. So the type of shots we hit around the green are much different.
I think from a spectator's position, it's going to be a great week to watch the creativity of some shots around the green and to see how much not so how much, but what a big swing guys are able to make from just off the edge of the green. In Florida, we typically don't hit shots like that.
So it's not so much a climate change as it is getting used to the different types of turf.
Q. And how about the narrow fairways?
ROD PERRY: Yeah, they are single file in a lot of places. You pray that you have a good day off the tee and you're able to hit 14 fairways and 18 greens, and if that's the case, then you should have a fine day. If you happen to miss one of the fairways or more than one, you're going to have a tough time.
Q. Do you consider your strength your driving, your chipping, or your putting coming into this week?
ROD PERRY: I'm typically a pretty straight driver of the ball. We're going to find out real quick if that's the case. So hopefully that stands up.
You know, for any of us, certainly the club professionals, to play good, we need a good week putting. So hopefully I drive it extremely straight and hit it close to the hole and putt it really well.
Q. I was standing off the 18th green over in Sunriver when you won and I saw the reaction from your family, a young family. Are your children old enough to be aware of what's going on right now? I know how excited they were at Sunriver and I just wonder what this experience is like for them.
ROD PERRY: So the Golf Channel and The PGA of America obviously have done some great shows, not only before Sunriver, but then after Sunriver, as well. So my kids have been able to see themselves on TV, and they just think that's the greatest thing in the world.
So I think my oldest daughter, Vanessa, she's five, she's starting to get it. She understands. My two year old son, Carson, has absolutely no idea what's going on and he shies away from the camera a little bit.
KELLY ELBIN: Are they here with you this week?
ROD PERRY: No, they're not. My wife, Jaclyn, is coming up this week and she'll be up Thursday night. The kids are staying with "Gaga".
Q. Is the reaction you get from your fellow club pros completely supportive or is there some needling in there about who you'll rub elbows with?
ROD PERRY: Not so much needling about who you'll play with or who you might get paired with during the week. There's some needling about how much golf do you play, are you really working at all, that kind of stuff.
Certainly the club professionals around the country are watching the 20 of us and they are wishing us all the absolute best. You know, who knows, maybe this is the year where one or two or 20 of them happen to play really well and have a great week.
Q. What would be a great week? Making the cut is pretty much your goal, or more than that?
ROD PERRY: Well, we kind of have a little tournament amongst ourselves, too. So to be the low PGA professional is a huge honor, wherever that might fall.
And then as I mentioned before, you want to try to win every tournament you play in, and to sit here and say, hey, look, I'm going to win, period, when you're playing against Tiger and Phil and Adam Scott and obviously the other superstars of professional golf, might be a little bit naïve. But you certainly hope for the absolute best, and that's it. If I play well, I'm happy, no matter how I finish.
Q. I was just wondering offhand what it means to you to play in a championship that was pretty much shaped and formed by Walter Hagen, who himself was a club pro all those years ago, kind of made a touring professional a business itself out of a club professional business. What does it mean to you? Does that ever occur to you?
ROD PERRY: Yeah, obviously I think we all know how the PGA TOUR got started. It was really The PGA of America and the club professionals who would leave their club and travel south during the winter and tour, and then because the prize money wasn't all that great, they were fortunate enough to go back to the north and work during the summer.
So obviously times have changed. There's been a separation obviously between professional golfers and golf professionals, but it's obviously just a huge honor to get a chance to play amongst the best players in the world.
KELLY ELBIN: You mentioned about the grass and so forth; when you're working around the greens here in the practice rounds, are you hitting a lot of shots out of difficult lies just to get a sense how to play those shots that you're not accustomed to playing out of the year playing in Florida.
ROD PERRY: I've just been kicking it out of the rough now. Hopefully no one sees that or noticed that, I'll just plan to do it during the tournament.
No, you try to putt yourself in situations around the greens that you're going to encounter; in a four day event, you're going to be faced with some shots like that. I'll be perfectly honest, I hit a couple of shots out of the rough this week that were almost embarrassing, it's that difficult. You hope you don't hit it in there very often, and when you do, you hope to find a way to escape unscathed, and that's it.
Q. With your six exemptions, have you decided on what TOUR events you'll be playing?
ROD PERRY: I don't know exactly how that works. From what I know or what I hear, I'll receive the three exemptions in the opposite field weeks, and then I have the liberty to pick three, as well. So if anybody knows how that works, let me know.
But obviously I'll try to find some courses that I think might fit my style of play. I'll find some events that are happening on the weeks I think I can be away from the club. You know, we'll go from there.
KELLY ELBIN: PGA Professional National Champion, Rod Perry, thank you very much.
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