When Kenny Perry came huffing and puffing to the 18th green at the 34th Seniors Open Golf Tournament Sunday in Omaha, we had to smile. An age thing.
Here’s our guy again. Two weeks removed from winning his first Senior Players Championship in Pittsburgh, Perry had wobbled the first two days in Omaha then charged to the front and led by five as he came up the hill to enjoy teevee face-time, applause and whistles reserved for a winner on a Sunday evening ahead of 60 Minutes.
Here he was again. Man from Franklin and Western Kentucky U., owner of 14 PGA Tour titles, five after age 47, and now back-to-back wins on the Senior tour in as many starts.
“It’s probably my greatest win,” Perry told reporters.
Probably closer to true than they realized. Kenny Perry has come of age, found a niche where happiness lives and what might’ve been (Masters or PGA Open) don’t.
Bit portly these days, Perry’s thatch of more salt than pepper hair under the visor are signs of a road well traveled. Come August 10, a birthday, 53. James Kenneth Perry looked confident and comfortable as he navigated the last nine holes Sunday seemingly oblivious to Fred Funk and Rocco Mediate on his flank, then fading into early evening.
Here was our guy coming home at top of his game … where happiness lives.
His greatest win? Yep.
For a week, a month, a summer perhaps, the king of the Seniors Circuit is Kentucky’s own Kenny Perry.
BASEBALL MIDSUMMER REVIEW
As Major League Baseball broke for its midsummer classic, one man’s highlights from the season’s first half are these:
1. St. Louis Cardinals. Best record in baseball 57-36 without ace starter Chris Carpenter or closer Jason Mott. Over 93 games manager Mike Matheny mixed and matched brilliantly.
2. Chris Davis in Baltimore. Gorgeous home run swing. Davis had 37 homers at the break.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates. Second best record in baseball a game behind the Cardinals and 19 games over .500, the Pirates have become one of the most popular franchises in MLB. Top seller at the All-Star game in New York City this week? Pirates’ black and gold gear.
4. Steve Delabar. Baseball story of the year could become Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Steve Delabar. From low minors to Tommy John surgery to two seasons with Seattle Mariners to substitute teacher at Central Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, to a call-up to the Blue Jays bullpen. Then: American League all-star roster, selected by the fans.
No flash-in-the-pan, if Delabar’s statistics were logged into Baseball’s Encyclopedia today they would read 10 wins in 15 decisions, 2.97 ERA and 157 strike outs.
Postscript. Born in Ireland Army Hospital at Fort Knox, Delabar celebrated his birthday 24 hours after the Midsummer Classic. On July 17 he turned 30.
BLUNDERS AT KENTUCKY?
An opinion piece at an internet site last week titled: ‘Five biggest blunders in University of Kentucky basketball history,” was superficial, shallow and sensational as intended. But the idea was fair.
Point shaving scandal in the 1940s made the list naturally. The $1,000 cash package to Chris Mills father Claud, allegedly sent by assistant coach Dwane Casey mid-1980s, should not make even a top 10. As recently as 2011 Eddie Sutton said “it was a set up.”
Not listed, but should have been, these blunders …
√ Academic fraud involving recruit Eric Manual on Sutton’s watch brought NCAA sanctions.
√ Slush fund for players during Joe B. Hall’s tenure did same.
LEGITIMATE BLUNDERS LIST
Having seen and written about basketball at Kentucky for four-plus decades, a legistimate Blunders List …
1. NCAA shame. In 1954, three starters on an undefeated team (25-0) were declared ineligible because they were fifth year seniors or graduate students.
√ With threat of injunction to block suspensions of Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos available in today’s game all would have played.
√ 1954 NCAA championship. LaSalle won the title. Kentucky had coasted past the Explorers 73-60 earlier in the season.
2. Having recruited Alfred ‘Butch’ Beard to within a whisker of signed scholarship in 1965, inability to persuade Breckinridge County’s Mr. Basketball winner to be the SEC’s first black player was an historic blunder.
Assurances that Beard not only would be protected, but show-cased as the SEC’s first black player, should have been paramount.
√ The affable and gifted Beard could’ve been to Kentucky basketball what Perry Wallace came to represent to the SEC at Vanderbilt in 1968. Distinguished.
√ Pre-empted racial rant become legend from Texas Western-Kentucky game in spring 1966.
√ Would have compromised a recruiting tool against UK a decade before recruiter Joe B. Hall arrived.
3. Academic fraud. A blunder that rates with point shaving. The NCAA ruled that another student took an entrance exam for freshman Eric Manuel.
4. Institution of 3-5 second delay, radio-to-television broadcasts ending the popular “turn down the teevee sound and listen to Cawood’s play-by-play.”
5. SEC shame. Administrators failed to recognize it had right man for the times to build its basketball market. Adolph Rupp was not shy to cast the challenge: “If you don’t want Kentucky beating your brains out all the time, upgrade your programs!”
They did. Others took the bows later and/or received the credit.
WORTH REPEATING DEPT.
UCLA will pay Steve Alford $2.6 million a year for seven, or $18.2 million total. If he quits before 2016, Alford must pay UCLA $10.4 million. Penalty drops each year to $7.8 million, $5.2 million and finally $2.6 million in his final year.
The contract calls for UCLA to pay Alford the same amounts if he’s fired.
“We wanted the commitment to be strong on both sides,” associate director of athletics Mark Harlan said. “We didn’t want him going anywhere.”
Translation: UCLA does not trust its ball coach nor does ball coach trust his employer.
Snapshot of today’s college ball coach environment.
And so it goes.