Connected In Connecticut
After 21 tries, Kenny Perry finally wins the Travelers Championship and, in the process, finds a little post-Masters relief
Redemption Is a difficultword.
No concept across the human condition is more full of hope, satisfaction and rebirth, yet compounded by regret, uncertainty and fear.
In the end, it implies a repayment of sorts, but for a debt not really owed, to a collector no one can see. The only question is whether time and opportunity will supply enough to square your account.
Twelve Sundays from a Masters defeat that might haunt for a lifetime, let alone a career, Kenny Perry made good on a promise 22 years in the making to a Connecticut family that has been his home-away-from-home for the Hartford tour stop since his rookie year of 1987. At the same time, he took a giant step toward a redemption he didn't really need but wanted so badly just the same.
In a tournament that had all the subtlety of a drag race and nearly just as many fireworks, Perry blazed home with a final-round 63 to win the Travelers Championship by a cozy three shots, erase the competitive doubts left behind by his Sunday evening Masters debacle and elevate himself to favorite-son status at an event that like its new champion has been reenergized in its later years.
"I've been fighting each year to try to do something special here, and it finally showed up today," Perry said after his second win of '09 and his fifth in 28 starts. If you're counting, that's more wins in the last 13 months than any player on the PGA Tour, and it also elevated him to first on the 2009 money list. "This is unbelievable," said Perry, who missed but two Hartfords (2000, 2004) in 23 years. "To say you want to win something and then to actually achieve it is a great feeling. I just hate that it took me so long."
Perry's recent hot streak might have been derailed by his bogey-bogey finish and subsequent playoff loss to Angel Cabrera at April's Masters, and while he says he was over that disappointment in a matter of days, there is a sense that he still had some personal accounting to take care of.
"Everybody kind of asked about the Augusta hangover deal," Perry said. "I guess I shoved that aside a little bit [today]. So that makes me feel pretty good."
But Perry acknowledged that there was a lingering effect to his near green jacket experience. Thinking you've won before you have and then not doing it tends to leave a mark, especially on a 48-year-old constitution. Recovering from past mistakes is the difference between what winners call "experience" and the rest of us know as self-doubt.
"That deal taught me a lot today," he said. "I knew I had to keep making birdies, so I wasn't going to let up. I wasn't going to play defensive golf. I learned something from that mistake."
It helped that the setting for his redemption was as familiar as the downstairs rec room. Literally. Perry has stayed with the same Wethersfield, Conn., family in all of his 21 trips to play at the TPC along the Connecticut River, dating back to the days of the Canon Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open.
"He walks in the front door every year, drops his bags and says 'I'm home,' " said family matriarch Martha Kirsche, who along with husband Steve has watched Perry raid the family refrigerator, wash and fold his laundry and even mow the front lawn on the family tractor. "It's really like a second home to him."
Perry and his own family have grown up with the Kirsches and their family, and in his acceptance speech he thanked them for all he has learned from them over the years. The Kirsches were his guests at Augusta three months ago, and they watched how he handled the defeat there with the same class and gentleness he has displayed in their home for two-plus decades. The world watched, too, and Perry has in the interim become something of a local hero wherever he goes.