PGA golfer Kenny Perry loves cars, golf, his family and his hometown of Franklin, Ky. His dream was to win at the Ryder Cup for Team USA.
Perry has gotten exactly what he wanted, and here’s how:
• He keeps things simple. He lives in a farming town of 8,000 just north of the Kentucky-Tennessee border where he races cars and built a public golf course ($28 weekdays for 18 holes, including cart).
Perry’s best friends include an auto mechanic, a drag racer and factory workers. He’s the soul of a Ricky Skaggs song, “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’.”
“It’s pretty simple,” Perry says. “I live in a simple town. I’m a simple guy.”
• He had one goal. The Ryder Cup at Valhalla. At age 48, Perry dedicated himself to making the team in 2008. He won three of his 12 PGA titles to qualify, choosing such modest tournaments as Milwaukee over big ones like the British Open, confounding Jack Nicklaus and delighting Perry’s hometown fans, who understood that he just wanted to represent his country in his home state.
“Not everybody’s playing for majors,” he says.
At the Ryder Cup, he birdied four straight holes to take a 3-stroke lead. He never fell behind. “I said this was going to define my career, but it made my career,” he said, adding that for one week of his life, he felt like Tiger Woods.
• He’ll leave a legacy. In 24 years on the PGA Tour, Perry has earned $32 million, but his real legacy is that he goes to church twice a week and doesn’t drink, swear or like dirty jokes. He has donated millions to charity, mostly schools and scholarships.
“When you’re dead and in your coffin, what do people say about you?” asks Perry. “That’s all that matters to me. What did I leave behind? I hope nobody remembers what I did in golf. I hope they remember what I did in life.”
— Adapted from “Country pride,” Jeff Rude, Golfweek, and “Perry comes through, gets redemption at Valhalla,” www.rydercup.com.