FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Golfer Kenny Perry has a message for fans or media who think he is still crushed or depressed by his recent Masters playoff loss: His faith in Jesus Christ is enough to take care of any professional distress.
“I wasn’t disappointed, that’s what people don’t understand,” Perry said after the first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Thursday, where he is a two-time champion of the PGA Tour event.
“I have been so blessed, I could never be disappointed or upset with my life.”
Perry, 48, capped the golf season of his life in 2008 with three PGA Tour victories and a spot on United States’ victorious Ryder Cup team.
In 2009 it even got better with a victory at the 2009 PGA Tour event in Phoenix and his strong showing at the Masters tournament.
Playing in the major championship closest to his hometown of Franklin, Ky., Perry played steadily, if not brilliantly, in moving to the top of the leader board at Augusta National Golf Club.
He was in the final group on the final day. In the crowd: PGA Tour chaplain Larry Moody, who had spoken to Perry about the international platform to give glory to God with a victory.
But an 18th hole missed putt left Perry in a playoff with Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell. A poor shot on the second playoff hole cost Perry his chance; Cabrera captured the victory, becoming the oldest champion in Masters history.
Even so, it didn’t leave Perry with a crushed spirit or crushed faith.
“Jesus is No. 1 in my life. I hope that comes through in everything I do,” he said.
Perry already had spurned the conventional Tour wisdom by citing his faith in saying earlier in the year he didn’t need a sports psychologist, a staple to many players on the tour.
In the aftermath of his Masters loss, the outpouring of support for the kind, Christian way he handled defeat was enough to lift his spirits.
“I got a lot of letters in the mail which said, ‘You must be a Christian because of the way you reacted,'” Perry said. “That’s what I want people to see in my life.”
While he didn’t take home the Green Jacket given to Masters champions, Perry did take home another chance to help others — being able to give more money to a scholarship fund at Lipscomb University, a Christian college in Nashville, Tenn., that he and his wife have established for kids from the Franklin area to attend at a reduced rate.
“We now have $1.5 million dollars in the trust fund endowment for kids and a Christian education. When I do well, it’s just more money to God.”
Perry said the idea to give back to God with each of his golfing successes came when he was broke and didn’t even know if he would ever make it to the PGA Tour.
A church member in Franklin loaned him the money to make it to tour qualifying school one last time in 1986, with Perry promising that if he ever achieved his golfing dream, he would find a way to give back to God.
“Our goal is that if a kid chooses a Christian education, they’re not going to be held back for lack of money,” Perry said in a 2005 story in The Links Letter. “It’s a great story I love to tell, because it shows how God has used me week in and week out and the money goes to further His cause. It gives kids a chance to know the Lord.”
On a warm Thursday (May 28), Perry’s opening round 64 at Colonial Country Club put him near the top of the leader board. But he said the highlight of this week in Fort Worth, as it is most weeks on the PGA Tour, is the weekly Wednesday Bible study.
Led by Moody or a local pastor, the one-hour study brings together more than 30 PGA players, caddies and officials to read and learn from God’s Word and pray for each other.
“I’m always inspired by the Bible study and inspired by the number of young guys who are there,” Perry said. “Guys like Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley and Justin Leonard. They are really the future of the tour.”
Art Stricklin is a Baptist Press sports correspondent based in Dallas.