DULAC / GOLF

Perry looks back at Fox Chapel win


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Kenny Perry played four decades on the PGA Tour without a major championship. Then, in back-to-back starts last summer on the Champions Tour, he won two in three weeks, beginning right here in Western Pennsylvania.

OK, winning a senior major does not carry the same cache or historical significance as a major championship on the PGA Tour. But don't tell that to Perry, who had been trying since 1982 to win one and even had a couple memorable near-misses.

"It was finally a dream come true," Perry said. "To have major championships at your fingertips and to lose them, and to now finally have a major title attached to your name, it's been pretty special for me."

Perry, 53, ended his personal drought with an impressive victory in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club, closing with rounds of 63-63-64 on a rain-softened course to beat Fred Couples and Duffy Waldorf.

Riding that momentum, Perry won the U.S. Senior Open two weeks later in Omaha, Neb., this time shooting 63-64 on the weekend in firm, fast conditions. He capped his incredible summer by winning the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup.

"I get very streaky," Perry said the other day on a conference call. "When I get to winning golf tournaments, I won three out of four on the PGA Tour in 2003 and I won three [out of five] in 2008. It's funny, when my game gets hot, it gets hot, and that's what happened.

"Fox Chapel started a great streak for me, to finally get the burden of not having a major title associated with my name, to finally get that title put to my name, it really relaxed me and enabled me two weeks later to roll right into Omaha.

"It's just mind-boggling to me. I don't know how I do stuff like that; it just happens. I wish I could have figured it out 30 years ago."

Perry had chances to win a major championship in his PGA Tour career, none better than in the 1996 PGA Championship in his home state of Kentucky when he lost a playoff to Mark Brooks; and again in the 2009 Masters when he bogeyed the final two holes to blow a two-shot lead and lost on the second playoff hole to Angel Cabrera. Perry, a 14-time PGA Tour winner, would have become the oldest major champion in history.

But all that got washed away -- literally -- when Perry set a 54-hole tournament scoring record of 20-under 190 at Fox Chapel, a blitzkrieg that included 19 birdies and two eagles in the final three rounds. His winning score of 19-under 261 included no bogeys in the final 37 holes.

"Last year we played, as you remember, in torrential rains," said Perry, who will defend his title June 26-29 when the Senior Players Championship returns to Fox Chapel for the final year of its three-year run. "And it was ball in hand. I think when you give a professional ball in hand, you can get the mud off the golf ball, you can kind of tee it up a little bit in the fairways or around the greens and chipping and stuff. It really gives you a huge advantage."

Trivia

Jim Furyk finished second last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, the 26th time in his career he has been runner-up on the PGA Tour. Which active player has the most second-place finishes on tour? Answer at end.

It's that time

The Open qualifying season is underway and kicks into gear this week with two qualifiers at Western Pennsylvania clubs.

The 18-hole local qualifier for the U.S. Open is Wednesday at Valley Brook CC in McMurray with 75 players competing for four spots. Survivors advance to a 36-hole sectional qualifier in two weeks, the last leg of qualifying before the U.S. Open June 12-15 at Pinehurst.

Monday, a 36-hole sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women's Open is at Butler Country Club. This is the final leg of qualifying before the women's national championship, which is the week after the men's national championship at Pinehurst.

Getting hooked on the game

Instead of trying to lure junior golfers to the game, golf has decided to bring the game to the juniors. And they don't even have to leave school.

A youth development program for grade-school students that has been in place in other parts of the country has come to Western Pennsylvania, all with the purpose of helping working parents with an after-school program that focuses on golf.

The program is called TGA Premier Junior Golf (it stands for "teach, grow, achieve") and it takes place primarily at elementary schools and youth centers with a curriculum formed by golf pros and education experts.

The idea is to make golf a type of after-school enrichment program, with parents paying a modest fee to give their kids something productive and fun to do until they get off work and can pick the kids up at school.

"Golf presents barriers for working parents," said Doug Yannascoli, territory director for TGA Premier Junior Golf. "If they don't play themselves, they don't know how to get involved in it. At TGA, we break down the barriers and we come right to the school.

"If there are schools out there that want something like an after-school activity that's new, that's different, we provide that for them. And the great part is we provide everything -- the instructors and coaches, all the golf clubs that are sized for elementary students, we provide insurance for each kid and we provide all the marketing, too. The school district doesn't have to do anything."

TGA will also offer six introductory camps in the summer at Mt. Lebanon Municipal Golf Course, beginning June 23 and running through August 8. Full-day ($325) and half-day ($189) camps that include instruction, playing and lunch are available. Students must be entering kindergarten or no older than fifth-grade completion.

Deadline for registration is May 28. Go online at www.mattkluckgolf.com or email swpitt@playtga.com or call 724-875-2415.

Quotable

Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel on whether Adam Scott should have an asterisk next to his name if he supplants an injured Tiger Woods as the No. 1 player in the world: "Since 2011, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott have gone head-to-head 10 times in major championships. Adam Scott has won eight of those battles. If he ascends to No. 1, there is no need for an asterisk."

Dissa and data

■ PGA professional Carmen Costa has been named director of instruction at Frosty Valley Golf Links in Upper St Clair.

■ Point Park University qualified for the NAIA national championships for the second year in a row. The tournament begins Tuesday at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Trivia answer

Davis Love III, who has 20 PGA Tour victories, leads all active players with 30 second-place finishes on tour.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday 6-7:30 p.m. on 970 ESPN.


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