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Despite PGA fame, Kenny Perry still same man of faith, family

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A year ago, Kenny Perry was a solid, friendly yet largely unknown PGA Tour golf professional.

Paid to wear colorful Tabasco golf shirts and raised in a small town in Kentucky, Perry was a former Tour winner but had faded into golf’s background.

That was before Perry won three tournaments in the summer of 2003, including back-to-back events at the Bank of America Colonial with a career-low third-round 61, and the Memorial Tournament the following week.

Then the entire golf world learned that Perry is devoted to his faith, his family and his small-town roots.

“The greatest thing about last year is that [the golf media and fans] told my story about how important my faith is to me, about growing up in a small town and about wanting to help others,” Perry said. “I’m just one simple guy, but God tells us to be ready at all times.”

Perry won more than $4 million in PGA Tour prize money last season with his three wins, but he is using that money to fund scholarships at David Lipscomb University — a Church of Christ school in Nashville, Tenn. — as well as to help build and run a public golf course in his hometown of Franklin, Ky., and to contribute generously to his church, where he is a devoted member.

“You know what?” Perry said after the first round May 20 at the storied Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, “It’s not my money; it’s God money and He wants me to use it to honor Him. I’m just under pressure to use it the right way.”

While he had already enjoyed a solid career before last season’s breakout year with four PGA Tour victories, he said a good friend and former pastor actually foreshadowed the tremendous spotlight he would enjoy last season.

“A former youth minister of mine called me last spring and said, ‘I’ve been praying for you,'” Perry recounted. “I asked him why, and he said, ‘The world has not seen your character yet.’ After I won two weeks in a row, I called him back and said maybe he should keep praying.”

When the world saw Perry’s character as one of the leading golfers of 2003, they saw a man who would just as soon spend time with his family, friends or church as on the golf course competing for millions.

“People used to laugh when I would take September and October to help coach my kid’s teams or spend time at home, but that is what I am and what I believe,” Perry said.

In 1995 he took out a $2.5 million loan to purchase 142 farmland acres and design the only public course in his small Kentucky hometown. He named it Country Creek — the name his daughter chose.

Along with the scholarships to his wife’s college, David Lipscomb, and his help for his hometown, Perry has shared his faith with various groups nationwide.

Recently he spoke at the men’s breakfast at Richland Hills Church of Christ in Texas, where Christian golf legend Byron Nelson attends.

“It’s pretty neat to get to share and give my testimony. My story is out there and I’m glad to share it,” Perry said.

Professional golf is unique in that, every week, newspapers across America print the prize money amounts individual golfers have won.

While Perry admitted having his golf earnings printed made him uneasy, he said he’s seen a spiritual side to that as well.

“The Bible says render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” he said. “The IRS already knows what I’m making, so it’s fine for others to know as well. It was a bit of a sticker shock the first time I saw that, but I’m pretty well used to it.”

Already this season, Perry has posted four top 10 finishes and earned more than $1.3 million. But he’s determined to stay the same golfer and man of faith and family that he was before he ever won a dime.

“There’s more to life than just golf with what we have going on here,” he said.

It’s all part of the Kenny Perry story he’s happy to tell whoever will listen.
Art Stricklin is director of public relations for Marketplace Ministries and a regular contributor to BP Sports, on the web at www.bpsports.net.

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  • Art Stricklin