American professional golfer and Straight Down Ambassador Kenny Perry recently returned to the PGA Tour Champions. He answered some of our questions about how it feels to get back to the game he loves, and how golf has played a huge role in his life throughout the years.
When did you start golfing and what got you started? I’ve been playing since I was 7 years old, my dad taught me. My dad sold insurance and he was gone Monday through Friday working, so the weekends were our time– just me and him. He loved golf, so he would always take me to play golf on the weekends. That’s where my love of golf started- through his teachings and his help. Then it just kind of evolved from there, I just started playing more and more on my own and just grew a love for the game. I knew at a young age what I wanted to do for my career. I didn’t know if I was going to make it on the PGA Tour, and if I didn’t take that route I would’ve done the Club Pro or teaching pro– something just in the game of golf, that’s the direction I was always going to go with my life.
How does it feel to return to the PGA Tour Champions? Well, it has been a blessing for one thing, especially after being cooped up for three months at home, wondering if you’re ever going to get to play again at this age. I’m 60 years old, and I was questioning if my career was over, which was pretty disheartening. I didn’t really want it to end that way, so it’s nice that now we were able to play last week in Flint. I played pretty good, finished in 19th– so for three months off, I was tickled with that. Now, we get to play in Akron this week at Bridgestone where I played many PGA events. It’s neat to see the guys and getting back to what I love doing. I still feel like I’ve got a little bit of game left to be competitive out here. I just like to get back into it one more time before I shut it all down.
I heard that you’ve won in Flint, Michigan before– how did it feel to return to that course? I’ve won there twice– in 2001 and 2008. Whenever I get to return to a course that I’ve won at, it just brings great feelings and great memories. You remember the crowd and the yelling. The 17th hole at Flint is like the 16th hole at Phoenix or Scottsdale– it’s just very lively with lots of screaming and hollering. You really feel the energy of the crowd. Winning those two years really brings back a lot of those great memories. Every time I step foot on that golf course, no matter how I play, I still always feel like I’m going to play well because I have all of those great memories.
What are you most excited about returning to tournaments? What did you miss the most about it? For one– I missed the guys, I missed the camaraderie. I’ve been playing against these guys for over thirty years. Same group of guys. I got my tour card in ‘87 and I played all the way on the big tour through 2014. But, I turned 50 in 2010 so I was kind of playing both tours– the regular tour and the champions tour from 2010 to 2014, so I kind of got the mix of both worlds where I got to play with some of the younger guys like Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and all those kids during that time. Now, from 2014 to 2020 here, I’ve been playing with the old guys. Now we got Ernie Els who I play a lot with. There’s also Jim Furyk who just turned 50 in Flint, and he just won, which is pretty cool. Mike Weir just came out to the tour too. Then, you know, you got all of the old-timers like John Houston, Billy Andrade, Brad Faxon, and many more. It’s just all guys that I’ve been playing with for over thirty years. It’s like groundhogs day, even though we all got grey hair and less hair, we’re all still doing the same thing. It’s been pretty exciting to get back out and see everybody. It’s like a big reunion every week.
What are some of your proudest achievements in golf? The greatest achievement, I thought, was when I won my singles match in the Ryder Cup in 2008 against Henrik Stenson. My dad was up in years, I believe 86 at the time. A backstory on my dad was he wore a suit and tie his whole life– selling insurance and being a manager. When he quit insurance, he put bib overalls on, he never wore a suit again. His everyday clothes were bib overalls from that point on. When I won my singles match against Henrik Stenson, my dad came out onto the green with his arms wide open wearing bib overalls and a red, white, and blue shirt underneath it. He gave me a hug and it was just a father-and-son moment I will never forget. It was in Valhalla in my home state of Kentucky, and it just couldn’t have been any more perfect. To have him there, to win– just too many great memories. I still see his face. I lost him a few years ago, but I still always think of him in those situations.
Why do you wear Straight Down and what do you like about it? I think that Straight Down sells a tremendous product. I’ve worn all the clothes you can imagine on tour, I wore just about every brand that was out there– and I can honestly say that Straight Down has been my favorite of all of them. I feel very athletic in Straight Down gear. They’re very stretchy, very pliable, and very comfortable. I just feel like there’s no bonding, and they’re great-looking for one thing. They make a sixty year-old look young again, which I think is outstanding. It’s just got a cool look to it. I just love this company and the people who are a part of it. I also got to play in the Straight Down tournament for the first time last year, and I just had a ball. I got to meet everyone and got to know them. Quality people, tremendous products. I just can’t say enough about how good the products are.