Reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Kenny Perry figures to take a shine to The Broadmoor
by Gary Baines
Kenny Perry was sitting within a few feet of a U.S. Senior Open trophy at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on Monday, but given that he won the championship last summer, he’s got one of his own back home in Franklin, Ky.
“It makes me nervous every day where it’s sitting,” Perry explained during a U.S. Senior Open Championship Preview seven weeks before the tournament comes to The Broadmoor. “I have a little muni (course) I opened in 1995 (named Country Creek). I’ve got the trophy right there on the counter where everybody who comes in and gets a greens fee can see it, have your picture taken with it or whatever. It makes me so nervous because we’ve been broken into four or five times, and I’m afraid somebody is going to get it. But I’ve still got it.
“We keep it shiny, keep it looking nice. When people grab that trophy and just start looking at the names (of the champions), I just sit back and take pictures of them. Everybody is in awe of all the names on that trophy.”
Along with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Hale Irwin, engraved on that trophy is Perry’s name — twice, in fact. The 57-year-old has won the U.S. Senior Open, arguably the top event in senior golf, two times in the last five years. The only other players who have claimed the title two or more times are Nicklaus, Player, Irwin, Allen Doyle and Miller Barber, the only three-time champ.
And if Perry plays well enough come June 28-July 1 at The Broadmoor, he could join Barber in the three-timers club.
Perry came to The Broadmoor Resort for the first time on Sunday, though he didn’t arrive until late at night. So he truly had his first good look on Monday morning after he woke up. And his first reaction to the resort was the same as many people’s.
“As a golfer, you travel the world, but you don’t see the world,” he said. “You just see golf courses. Last night I flew in from Houston. I got in here about midnight. I didn’t have an idea of what we pulled into, so this morning when I woke up early, they’d given me this beautiful suite. I opened the curtains and there was this panoramic view. There was The Broadmoor out there in front of my eyes. I was like, ‘Wow. This place is amazing already.’
“The place is phenomenal. It’s beautiful. Thank you all for picking a golf course where every hole goes from right to left because that’s (the only shot) I can hit. I noticed there’s a lot of hooking holes out there. That’s right in my wheelhouse. I’m looking forward to coming here.”
Russ Miller, The Broadmoor’s longtime director of golf, gave Perry a quick tour of the East Course, where the championship will be contested. Miller made sure Perry took notice of the Will Rogers Shrine on the side of Cheyenne Mountain above the course as putts break away from it to the point of being very deceptive.
As Dale Douglass, a longtime Coloradan who won the 1986 U.S. Senior Open, noted on Monday, “I wake up having nightmares about having to make a 15-footer at this place.”
Added Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Senior Open Championship: “This is a very, very interesting venue and every time I come here I tell Russ I struggle to figure out The Broadmoor — and I think the best players in the world will too.”
Perry is sure to be fooled too — at least on occasion — during the U.S. Senior Open, just like about all 156 players in the field will. But he didn’t win 14 times on the PGA Tour and nine times on PGA Tour Champions by lacking for talent. And though he lost two major championships in playoffs — to Mark Brooks at the 1996 PGA Championship and to Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters — he’s won four majors on the senior circuit: a Senior Players and a Tradition to go along with his two U.S. Senior Open victories.
“When you’ve got Palmer, Nicklaus, Player on that trophy, it makes you feel pretty special you’re part of that company,” Perry said. “It’s been pretty rough on me my whole life. I’ve always come up a little short in my career. To finally break through and win a couple of these titles really means a lot.
“This takes the edge off the pain I still carry with me to be able to have some major titles associated with my name. It still motivates me very highly. It keeps me going, keeps the fire burning inside of me.”
Elway, Solich Will Team Up in Qualifying: As was noted months ago, U.S. Senior Open honorary chairman and Broncos general manager John Elway will attempt to qualify for the championship on Memorial Day at The Broadmoor. And, as Elway indicated in a video message on Monday, he’ll have a secret weapon of sorts to help bolster his chances.
Elway said George Solich, a co-founder of the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy who himself caddied at The Broadmoor as a teenager en route to receiving the Evans Scholarship for caddies, will be looping for the Pro Football Hall of Famer on May 28.
“He was a caddie down there for a long, long time,” Elway said of Solich, a friend for years. “He told me he’d get me through it and make sure I qualified.
“I’m excited for the opportunity just to play in a qualifier. I don’t have high expectations. My practice for the last three months has been inside the (Broncos) draft room. It’s been the mental side of practice and nothing physical. But I’m glad to be part of the Senior Open and bringing it back to Colorado.”
A lifelong golf amateur, Elway has finished as high as 19th in the CoBank Colorado Senior Open, has made the cut once in the Colorado Open, and has placed in the top 10 14 times in the nationally televised American Century Championships celebrity tournament in the Lake Tahoe area. He and Tom Hart won the 2009 Trans-Miss Four-Ball at Cherry Hills and tied for second in the 2010 CGA Four-Ball.
In all, more than 2,200 golfers posted entries for the U.S. Senior Open, with most of them competing at one of 34 qualifying tournaments. The qualifier at The Broadmoor on May 28 has a full field of 84 players.
Irwin, Watson Conducting Kids Exhibitions: Russ Miller, The Broadmoor’s director of golf, said Monday that two World Golf Hall of Famers will conduct kids exhibitions the week of the U.S. Senior Open June 25-July 1. Former University of Colorado athlete Hale Irwin, the career victory leader on PGA Tour Champions, will do the honors on Tuesday afternoon (June 26) and Tom Watson on Wednesday afternoon (June 27).
Miller said that in addition to Irwin, Watson and Perry, among those who are planning to play in the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor are Bernhard Langer, Davis Love III (who was previously announced) and Steve Stricker.
In Short: Among those in attendance at Monday’s U.S. Senior Open Championship Preview at The Broadmoor was a who’s who of Colorado golf. On hand were Judy Bell, a former USGA president; Dow Finsterwald, winner of the 1958 PGA Championship among his 11 PGA Tour titles; and Dale Douglass, who owns three PGA Tour wins and 11 on PGA Tour Champions, including a U.S. Senior Open. (Douglass and Finsterwald are pictured above.) Also at the festivities was Broncos placekicker Brandon McManus. … At least 21 hours of TV coverage is planned for the U.S. Senior Open, almost all on FS1. … The Broadmoor’s East Course will play 7,264 yards — and thereabouts — and to a par of 70 for the Senior Open. The 17th hole will be a par-4 rather than a par-5 for the championship. And the seventh and 11th holes will be flipped for the tournament, with both playing as par-4s.