Tommy Bolt says Back Off Pat


Tommy Bolt, golf's patron saint of intemperance, thinks we should all step back and give Pat Perez a little room to breathe.
'All of us are human,' said Bolt, who achieved notoriety for throwing golf clubs when they misbehaved. (Most people thought it was actually Bolt who was acting up.)
They called him 'Terrible Tommy.' And here he was, with his gravel voice, on the other end of the line from his Florida home two days before the start of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The subject was 'Petulant Pat.'
They had been talking and writing about Perez ever since he had blazed his way to a 61 in the second round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic last week. But they were focused more on Perez' meltdown in the final round of last year's AT&T when he acted like, well, Tommy Bolt while losing a final round lead and the tournament to Matt Gogel. Terrible Tommy knows how this works.
'Every one of 'em's thrown a club at one time or another,' Bolt said of today's young guns. He added that he wasn't so sure it was fair to single out Perez as today's smoking young gun.
But sooner or later, Bolt said, Perez was going to have to come face to face with the demon that is his temper. 'You have to work,' Terrible Tommy said, 'on controlling your emotions.'
Perez' people insist that's just what he has been doing so ever since last year's AT&T Pebble. No anger management classes. No therapy or sessions with golf shrinks. Just a lot of long talks with the people who are close to him. 'Pat will always play with emotion,' says Ralph Cross, his agent and confidante. 'But he has learned the great lesson.'
This, of course, remains to be seen. Pat Perez will not make one swing this week without a camera present ready to reproduce an image, moving and/or still, of his bile if it rises to a toxic level. Perez knows this. Cross knows this. Bolt knows it better than anybody.
'I've seen Tiger Woods throw clubs,' Bolt said. 'He just never got this kind of publicity.'
It's kind of surprising that in a celebrity culture that currently worships at the altar of fake reality television, somebody hasn't tried to capitalize on Perez volatility by proposing a series of commercial endorsements built around anger management.
Cross said no such offer has come. And he warned the hucksters against it. 'Don't even call,' he said.
The idea in the Perez camp is to get everybody's attention back to the golf. 'Pat's got some low numbers in his bag,' Cross says. Lots of agents say these kinds of things about their players. But recent stats support Cross.
Perez made 36 birdies in 90 holes at the Hope last week. Only Tom Kite (37) has ever made more in a Tour event. During the Thursday 61, Perez was 10 under par after 11 holes with no eagles.
The strategy this week for Pat Perez is to fly beneath radar. He is not granting interviews. And he says once this tournament is over he will never again talk about last year's eruption at Pebble Beach.
Jack Nicklaus was once 'fat.' George Foreman was once 'surly.' These are just two examples of great athletes who re-invented themselves, found a second act to their careers and moved on to bigger and better things.
Colin Montgomerie wasn't so lucky. O.J. Simpson's reputation is damaged beyond repair.
The point here is this: The court of public opinion is a capricious place to try your case. The jury is still out on 26-year-old Pat Perez. 'Pat wants to be known for his ability to play golf,' Cross said.
There is still time for that to happen.