An excellent adventure for last-minute entry Perry
PGA professional Doug Perry, from Fort Collins, Colo., thought the call was a joke. But when the person on the other end of the line assured him he had in fact secured a last-minute spot in the 71st Senior PGA Championship, well, that started what turned out to be 'easily one of the best days' he's ever had in golf.
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
PARKER, Colo. -- Doug Perry of Fort Collins, Colo., completed his debut round in the 71st Senior PGA Championship Thursday evening with an 11-over-par 83. But that humbling score does not tell a fraction of the story behind what he called "easily one of the best days I've ever had in golf."
The PGA head professional at City Park Nine Golf Course in Fort Collins, Perry had awakened at 4:45 a.m. Thursday to head to work. He was just finishing a group golf lesson for four women players when he got a telephone call.
The 55-year-old Perry was informed by the PGA of America Championship Department at 11 a.m. MDT that there was a spot open in the 71st Senior PGA Championship for a 2:15 p.m. starting time. Was he interested?
"Who is this?" said Perry, thinking he was the victim of a practical joke.
Assured that the call was legitimate, Perry accepted, and immediately called his best friend, PGA Professional Dale Smigelsky, PGA director of golf at Collindale Golf Club, one of three city-owned courses in Fort Collins. Would Smigelsky be his caddie?
"I heard Doug say that we would be playing with some guys named [Tom] Lehman and [Nick] Price," said Smigelsky with a big smile. "I checked with Doug to see if some of his staff could cover for him, and some of mine could help him while he was away."
"I would have been flipping burgers this afternoon for the men's league had I not gotten that call," said Perry.
Perry, a 31-year member of The PGA of America, became the 155th and last player in the field, replacing former PGA Champion Hal Sutton, who had withdrawn Thursday morning due to a sore hip. The PGA of America Championship Department spent the morning contacting players on the money list from last fall's Senior PGA Professional National Championship, focusing on players who lived within the region and could arrive in time to the tee.
Perry and Smigelsky drove 1 hour, 45 minutes to Parker, Colo., but their challenges were just beginning about midway into the trip.
"Halfway down the road, we found out that two of my wedges were non-conforming. We could not get them from our Titleist rep in time," said Perry. "So, we had the guy help by calling around for us, and we learned that there was a store in Parker -– ‘Lenny's' –- that had the wedges I needed." Perry pulled out a 52- and 58-degree TaylorMade Z-wedge, which he had never hit before Thursday afternoon.
"We got to the parking lot here at 1:55 p.m., with 20 minutes to spare," said Smigelsky. "Doug hit three drives, four 7-irons and then raced to the practice green where he hit two putts."
Once Perry got to the tee, he paused and let out a deep breath.
"I'm trying to decompress," he said before pulling on a golf glove.
Moments later, Perry was greeted by his playing partners -– Lehman, the former British Open and 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain; and Price, a two-time PGA Champion.
"Are you playing with us today" asked Lehman.
"Yes, I am," said Perry, with a big smile.
"Well, we're glad to have you."
When Perry's name and hometown were called by the official starter, PGA Past President Gary Schaal, it sparked an ovation from spectators in the grandstands.
Perry lifted his arms to accept the applause, then stepped up and hit his tee shot solidly down the right-center of the fairway.
"I could not have asked for two greater guys to play with, and they really put up with us pretty well," said Perry.
During his round, Perry struggled on a course that he had seen only twice before, the last time in 2007 when he was trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open. On Thursday, Perry suffered a triple-bogey 7 on the third and 13th holes, and double-bogeyed the 12th to go along with three bogeys.
"We play a ladies event at our club, and they throw out the four worst holes," said Perry. "If we could have done that it would not look so bad. That's my kind of game!"
Was this the highlight of Perry's golf career?
"I did qualify for the U.S. Senior Open in 2004, and qualified on my 50th birthday, which was my biggest day in golf," he said. "But, this is right up there. I'm halfway to the Grand Slam. I don't have to win them, but I do have to play in them."