2014 Senior PGA Championship interview with: KENNY PERRY


2014 Senior PGA Championship interview with: KENNY PERRY

May 21, 2014

KELLY ELBIN: Fresh off his victory Sunday at the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Kenny Perry is here at the 75th Senior PGA Championship Presented By KitchenAid. This will be Kenny's fourth Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. Kenny tied for second last year at Bellerive. Winning this past week, looks like your game is in great shape heading into Harbor Shores.

KENNY PERRY: Yeah, a lot of confidence and especially coming back to a place that I've had some success at. Two years ago here I played beautifully, didn't quite get the job done, Roger Chapman was just a little bit better than us.

Last year was very disappointing there at Bellerive. Had a great shot, I think I was 3 up with six to play and finished very poorly and Kohki played great coming in and slipped by me to win the championship.

So it's a championship I dearly would love to win, I'm here to try to do my best to get my hands on that trophy, and looking forward to the challenge this week. I played yesterday in the pro am, the golf course is in great shape, which I'm shocked, because I've got a lot of winter kill on my little golf course back home in Kentucky, but I have Bermuda fairways.

So, I don't know, the greens were fast, fairways were lush, and I know the weather's not been great up here, so the superintendent has done a marvelous job of getting this championship ready to go.

I'm ready. My game's good, just a matter if I can just retool up and refire at them come tomorrow morning.

KELLY ELBIN: Very good. Open it up for questions.

Q. Can you just talk about what it would mean to win here, not only your fourth Major, it seems like last year we were talking about, are you going to win a Major. Now you come in with a chance to win your fourth, but also the opportunity to get to Valhalla for the PGA.

KENNY PERRY: Well, I told everybody, this is my one spotter this week because I've got a lot of history at Valhalla in my home state of Kentucky, back in Louisville. To me, if I can get back there, it would be a great way to say bye to everybody. It's kind of my way to retire.

I've given 30 years of my life to the PGA TOUR and it would be a great way to kind of end my chapter on the PGA TOUR out there.

So that's my goal. I'm here to try to win this event and make sure I don't have to have Ted Bishop, put pressure on him to give me a special sponsor's exemption into the week. So, hopefully, I can win this week and earn my way into Valhalla.

The PGA of America, me being a golf course owner, I understand the men and women who run the PGA of America. They're the back bone of golf. They promote our golf and I've always been a part of that. I've always seen that as very important in my life.

That's why I built the little muni in Franklin, Kentucky and just wanted to try to give back to the kids and of my area.

So it's very important to me to try to win this championship. I always come in here ... maybe I try too hard in this event. This is one event that I've always wanted to win, I always ranked it No. 1, if I could have won on the PGA TOUR, or now on the Senior Tour of Majors to win, this would be No. 1 to try to win.

I guess I put added pressure on myself and sometimes that gets in the way. It just seems like my last three Major wins they just have come in bunches and I was very relaxed and didn't really think nothing much about the outcome, it just happened, it was just my time to win.

So I need that to kind of show itself up again here this week.

Q. Do you think that a sponsor exemption would be in the cards, potentially, even if you don't win this year, given your extensive history there?

KENNY PERRY: I've become the mayor a little bit. I politicked pretty hard for it. I really have. I talked to a lot of people, I had them send letters to Ted. I really have. I really, I want to get back there pretty bad.

It would be a ... I've only had one sponsor's exemption in my whole 30 year career on the PGA TOUR and it came from Colonial in Fort Worth. I've been able to win that tournament twice. And what that meant to me was the whole world. It really opened up a lot of doors to me to get back there.

So just, I just would love dearly to get back to Kentucky to be a part of that event. Having the Ryder Cup there and then my loss to Mark Brooks there and then I played the other year I forgot who won, we have had two ... oh, Tiger won. Tiger won that year. And I played okay that year too. So I had a lot of success there. But, yeah, I have politicked pretty hard for it.

Q. The Majors out here are a big deal for this TOUR. It wouldn't, I don't think, make up for what you maybe let slip away at Augusta or what have you, but the fact that you're on this roll in these Majors and have a chance to make some history, what does that mean to you?

KENNY PERRY: Well, it means everything. When you kind of give your life to something, it's nice to be remembered for all the effort you put into it. If I can somehow win four, have four starts in four consecutive ... call it the KP Slam or whatever you want to call it, instead of the Tiger slam ... it would be something people would remember me for.

It would just finally ... I don't know why I figured it out here in my 50s, but I started ... I don't know why I started playing better in the bigger events. I don't know if I changed anything, I don't know why, but it just seems it is my time and just things are falling my way, for whatever reason. I don't know why.

I'm definitely enjoying my golf at this stage in my life. Kids are doing good. I got a couple grand kids. It was pretty neat last week, after I won, they were taking pictures of my three year old and one year old grandson and granddaughter were running around in the bunker and they are all trying to take pictures of me holding the trophy and they were trying to shush the grand kids out of the way, it was pretty hilarious. It's a pretty special time in my life and the family can all enjoy all this and they can kind of see what I'm doing but, he yeah it would be pretty incredible to win four in a row, it really would.

I was pretty shocked when I saw only Gary Player had won three in a row. So that's a pretty good name to have your name attached to close by. So, yeah, it would be quite an honor.

Q. Is there a noticeable difference in the way you feel going into this week, for the longest time having that hump to get over, and now everything is going your way.

KENNY PERRY: Well I just think that, I just, a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders for whatever reason. Once I finally ... I told everybody I was snake bit when I lost the '96 PGA. Then I lost the 2009 Masters in a playoff.

It just seemed like I could get close in the Majors, I got up in there and would fight hard, it just seemed like I never could overturn, get over the hump.

Then when I beat Fred Couples down the stretch Senior PLAYERS last year, I said, well maybe the flood gates will open and they will start coming easier. I win two weeks later in the Senior Open, the U.S. Open there and then last week at the Regions Tradition I was able to hang in there and battle.

I didn't have a big lead. My other two wins were, I shoot 63s and 64s on both weekends to kind of run away with them, at the end.

Then last week it was a battle. We were all fighting and you saw all the crazy rulings. John Cook hit it twice, Tom Pernice hit it in the hazard and his ball was clearly visible, but he didn't go look for it, he just took a drop.

Next thing you know, a lot of craziness has happened and I was able to eke out a victory. Which was great. To me, I've been very fortunate, most of my wins have come when I'm in the lead and I was able to hang on to the lead and this one was a lot tighter.

But I didn't feel as nervous, I wasn't, I didn't feel pressure, I just killed it off the 72nd hole there on 18 and then hit a 9 iron that almost flew in the hole for my second shot. I was able to have a nice little 2 putt to win the tournament.

So that just gave me a lot of confidence. I just feel confident, I feel it is my time, I feel like I'm ready to excel at this deal and take on the challenge of it.

I played beautifully yesterday in the pro am, I hit it super. So I'm ready, it's just a matter of having the putts to fall at the right time. You need to make certain par putts to keep momentum of your round going, you need to make certain birdie putts to kind of get the pressure off of you to get more relaxed and get in a rhythm out there.

Golf's a game of momentum. It really is. There's a lot of momentum swings out there and times in your career when you can't seem to do no wrong and then times you can't seem to do no right. Right now it's, the last year and a half, has been pretty special for my golf game.

Q. Can you talk about your knee compared to maybe last year how it felt at this time to this year. I know last year you were complaining kind of through the week. Talk about how the knee's holding up.

KENNY PERRY: I am, knock on wood, I am pain free for the first time. I had the surgery done in February, I believe the year before and it almost to the February almost to the date of the surgery the knee quit hurting of this year.

It's been a blessing. It's been incredible. I was fighting and struggling and I couldn't hardly squat down, I couldn't bend, I couldn't walk, I was always in pain when I put pressure on the knee.

It really hurt in my swing, when I was trying to accelerate to my left side and put pressure on it.

But once it seemed to leave in February of this year, I can't be thankful enough. I didn't do anything different, I don't know, it maybe just took a year for it to heal. But I'm pain free and I'm very excited.

KELLY ELBIN: Your last competitive round here you set the all time Senior PGA Championship record with 62. Fond memories of that day. What do you remember most?

KENNY PERRY: Well, I just remember making putts all over the place on these greens. These greens aren't the easiest thing to putt on either.

What I do really do remember was great iron shots. I had a great control of the ball with my irons. I drove it beautifully that day. I was able to keep the ball in the right plateau to give myself realistic birdie putts on these greens.

That's the secret to this golf course. It's definitely a tee shot golf course and then it's a second shot golf course to where you got to put it on the right plateau to not have to have a 15 foot break or down the hill or slope, you'll be able to actually make a birdie putt.

I made nine of them, I guess, to shoot, I don't know if I made, if I made a bogey that day or not. But I know 62 was an incredible round. Very fortunate. It was a fun day.

Q. What was the impetus or the reason why you wanted to become an owner of your own facility?

KENNY PERRY: Well, my I was raised there on a little nine holes course in Franklin. It's a farming town, it's an industrial town. Most of my buddies work in factories or on a farm. They make probably 40,000 a year.

Raised on a little nine hole course, had four bunkers on it. I just felt that ... if you wanted to play golf you had to drive in a 30 mile radius to go ... if you lived in Franklin ... to go play public golf. If you wanted to go somewhere and play.

I just felt that our town would support it, if I built something there and give them something to enjoy, in the hills of Kentucky.

I've been open 20 years and I've yet to make a paycheck, so I don't know how smart a decision that was. But yet there's been a lot of great things come from it.

My dad loves it, he's 90 years old, he's out there every day, he's my ambassador out there. A lot of you saw him at the Ryder Cup in his bib overalls and he's quite a character.

My sister works out there. My son's going to probably run it here at the end of the year, start taking over for it and run it.

So, but my high school, we have all our high school matches there. Western Kentucky, the college I attended comes and plays, comes and practice there some.

I have four high schools in Tennessee that come and play all their home matches at my place. I'm only three miles from the Tennessee line, so Robertson County and East Robertson and they all come and play their matches.

So I don't charge the kids to play, I let them come play, practice, hit all the balls they want to hit for free. So just trying to give back to the kids and just give them an opportunity to learn the sport that I love and just let them get out and enjoy it and, hopefully, one day we'll have somebody from our area be successful out here on the PGA TOUR.

Q. That type generosity to the juniors, the youth of your area, to let them you say you let them play for nothing, really. People talk about growing the game, but that speaks to what one individual can do, if you just want to be generous, doesn't it?

KENNY PERRY: It does. And it's hard to believe that to come from a town of 10,000 people that I could have an impact as I've had. It's been, to me, it's been such a blessing.

From my scholarship fund, I've given ... five percent of my earnings have gone to Lipscomb University and it's, there's over two million dollars in a trust fund there at Lipscomb. It's a college in Nashville, Tennessee, my wife and my daughter attended it. Very close to my heart.

Our goal was, if the kids wanted a Christian education, that money was not going to be a factor, because it's a lot more expensive than going to UK or to Louisville or to Western Kentucky where I went to school.

The scholarship provides kids from Simpson County an opportunity to take advantage of it. And I've had over 40 kids use it.

So it's been a pretty neat thing to see that grow and do what it did and see how the golf course goes. So, you know, it is about giving back and about building relationships and building friendships and helping others down the road. I've been helped a lot when I was a kid coming up through here to get it to where I am here today. So it's been just kind of returning the favor.

KELLY ELBIN: Kenny Perry, ready to go tomorrow. Thank you.

KENNY PERRY: Thank you.

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