The Meaning of Golf in the United Kingdom


Kenny Perry was one of those guys 10 or 15 years ago who preferred to play it safe. The British Open was a major, he knew. It was one of only four majors, admittedly. It was a victory that he certainly would have cherished.
But it was, oh, so far away. And golf on the eastern side of the Atlantic was so ' foreign. And dont forget Perrys family ' he had three children, and Perry didnt know if they would enjoy all that of Britain is about. All in all, he just found it so much more convenient to stay by the hearth of his Kentucky home.
But in the fourth decade of his life, he finally ventured out across the ocean. This is his third British Open now, and - hey! Golf WAS different! And this golf was fun! All those years of hunkering down back in America ' what a monumental waste of time.
I said it before, I said I'm not playing for the money anymore, I'm playing for history, Perry says. I kind of forgot what it was all about there in the middle of the '90s when I was playing pretty good golf.
Maybe I made too much money, I don't know what it was, but for some reason I didn't come over here. And when I look back I can kick myself, because I've had so much fun whenever I've come over here the last couple of years, that I didn't realize what I was missing. I kind of got lost in what I was doing in my life.
And I'm just now - I just want a little piece of history. I want to have a chance to come over and compete and try to win this tournament. It's starting to mean a lot to me. I enjoy playing it. I love the people over here. And I've just had a blast. So to me, it's been fun. I don't really - I don't put a lot of pressure on myself anymore. I just try to go out and enjoy the golf the way it was played. And that's what I try to experience.
Twice Perry was exempt from qualifying but elected not to come. Many more years he simply took this week off instead of coming over to try to qualify. And he says now that it was a big mistake. He has a lot of ground to make up.
I want to come over here and compete, he says. I want to play all these courses at least once. I don't know, I'm getting ready to turn 44. I don't know how many years I've got left. But it's just fun, exciting to me.
The first time that he finally made the trip, he was absolutely stunned. The game was played with clubs and a golf ball, but that was where the similarities ended. But ' this game was lots of fun!
I was in shock, because I was like, you know, it's so different, Perry said. It's nothing I've ever seen or been around. I guess I was paralyzed out there because it stunned me the first few times here, and I really struggled.
What he discovered was a whole new bounce to the ball on turf that was very spongy, very bouncy. And he had to learn an entirely different way to play the game.
I'll never forget the second hole the first day (this year). I hit a 3-iron up the right side of the fairway and it was just a perfect shot and it ended up 50 yards left in the pot bunker to the left over there. And I don't know how it got over there, I couldn't tell you how it got over there, said Perry.
And you know what? You accept it and go on. You're going to get them.
And there was another time Thursday when he saw something that his 44-year-old eyes hadnt laid eyes on. It was on 15, and before it was over, he had another in a long line of indelible memories.

I hit it in the right rough and it was thick and heavy, Perry said. I had a terrible lie. And it just went dead left over into the pot bunker that was about 60 yards short of the green, up against the face, into the face. And the face curves this way and I'm in the corner of the curve.
So I'm right-handed, and I'm thinking I can't hit it anyway. I hit it at the crowd. All the people were backing up. I was aiming right at them. I hit it into the crowd and I had a 70-yard shot and pitched it to about 6 feet, and I made a bogey.
It was the greatest bogey in my life.
Perry was having the time of his life making the greatest bogey of his life. This is golf British-style. Theres no question its different. But theres no question it is a real joy. Just ask Kenny Perry.
Email your thoughts to George White