PARKER, Colo. -- Thursday started normally for Doug Perry, the 55-year-old head professional at City Park Nine GC, a municipal course in Fort Collins, Colo. He was up at 4:45 a.m. and arrived at the course at 5:30. He gave a group lesson to four women beginners that concluded at 10:30. When that was over, he was inside getting a check to pay a liquor salesman making a delivery when the phone rang.
"I actually thought somebody was pulling a prank on me," Perry said of his reaction when the caller, Susan Martin of the PGA of America, told him Hal Sutton had withdrawn because of a sore hip and there was a spot for Perry in the Senior PGA Championship at Colorado GC.
Sutton was the ninth golfer to pull out of the field, and officials were scrambling to find alternates. Perry's T-68 in the 2009 Senior PGA National Championship -- and his Colorado address -- got him the late invitation.
There was only one hitch. Perry just had about three hours before the 2:15 p.m. starting time, with former major champions Nick Price and Tom Lehman, no less.
Perry made a quick call to his best friend Dale Smigelsky, the director of golf at Collindale GC, another municipal facility in Fort Collins, to see if Smigelsky could arrange for someone to staff City Park so he could compete and if he could caddie for him. With those details set, the duo made the 90-mile drive, arriving at Colorado GC at 1:55 p.m. after a detour to Lenny's Golf Shop in Aurora, Colo., so Perry could buy two wedges with conforming grooves.
"I was nervous as hell," Perry said of his emotions when he arrived at Colorado GC at 1:55 p.m. "I hit three drives and four 7-irons then ran over and hit two putts and we had to go."
Somehow, Perry parred the first two holes before carding a triple bogey on No. 3. He had another triple on No. 13 and a double bogey on No. 12, but made 12 pars en route to an 83 alongside Lehman and Price, who shot 68 and 70 respectively.
"He's a really nice man and I felt so bad for him that he got here with only minutes to spare," said Price. "He was a little harried on the first hole, to say the least but he made a par. Tom and I were trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible and give him as much encouragement as we could. I just said to him on the third hole to relax and enjoy it."
Perry, whose only foray into big-time golf was an appearance at the 2004 U.S. Senior Open, soaked up the day. "I told one of the guys that I like the game we play at our club," he said. "Yesterday we had Ladies' Day, and they throw out the four worst holes. If was doing that, I wouldn't have been so bad. That's my kind of game. But just playing with these two guys was fantastic."
-- Bill Fields