Perry proud to make a difference among Kentucky youth
June 16, 2014
By Alex Urban, Special to Together.PGATOUR.com
In the hills of rural Kentucky, golf hasn't always been accessible to the local youth population. One man is trying to reverse that trend and introduce a generation to the game that has propelled him to stardom. His name: Kenny Perry, the 2013 Charles Schwab Cup champion.
While Perry is best known for his 14 PGA TOUR victories, six Champions Tour wins — including the last three major championships in which he has started — and his triumph in the 2013 Charles Schwab Cup over Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples, his impact on the game of golf in south central Kentucky is noticed on a much more grassroots level.
20 years ago, Perry had the idea to open an accessible and affordable golf course in his hometown of Franklin, Ky. The small town of 10,000 people had a nine-hole course that Perry played growing up, but he felt the town could support a full-length, par-72 layout.
“If you wanted to play [in Franklin] you had to drive in a 30-mile radius to go play public golf,” Perry said.
So Perry designed a golf course carved into the hills of Kentucky, less than three miles from the border of Tennessee. He even let his daughter Lesslye, pick the name: Country Creek Golf Course.
The course is completely public, open daily and welcomes players of all ages and handicaps. That idea of inclusiveness is what makes the course so appealing to youth players and new golfers. It exists to introduce as many people to golf as possible with no intimidation.
And if you show up to tee it up in Kentucky’s countryside, you might even meet some of Perry’s family.
“My dad loves it, he's 90 years old, he's out there every day, he's my ambassador out there,” Perry said. “A lot of you saw him at the Ryder Cup in his bib overalls and he's quite a character.”
In addition to his father’s presence, Perry’s sister works at the course and he plans to hand over all operations to his son at the end of the year.
Perry’s main goal with the course is to grow the game of golf through the youth in the area. One of the ways he accomplishes this goal is by letting nearby high school and college teams play the course and practice on it — free of charge.
“I don't charge the kids to play. I let them come play, practice and hit all the balls they want to hit for free. So just trying to give back to the kids and give them an opportunity to learn the sport that I love and just let them get out and enjoy it and, hopefully, one day we'll have somebody from our area be successful out here on the PGA TOUR,” Perry said.
In addition to the work with his golf course, Perry donates a considerable portion of his yearly winnings to youth charities, including much of his $1 million prize for capturing the Charles Schwab Cup last year.
“Five percent of my earnings have gone to Lipscomb University and there's over two million dollars in a trust fund there,” said Perry.
Lipscomb is a private Christian University in Nashville, Tenn. Perry says it is a special place to him and close to his heart because both his wife and daughter were students there.
“Our goal was, if the kids wanted a Christian education, that money was not going to be a factor, because it's a lot more expensive than going to UK (Kentucky), or to Louisville or to Western Kentucky where I went to school,” Perry said.
Over 40 kids in the Simpson County area have used his scholarship fund to attend Lipscomb, and Perry is proud of the impact that he has made in his community.
“It's hard to believe that to come from a town of 10,000 people that I could have an impact as I've had. It's been, to me, such a blessing.”
Other youth charities that Perry has been involved with through the years include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee and Potter Children’s Home and Family Ministries, among others.
In the end, both Perry’s work with his golf course and his dedication to youth charities comes down to one thing: giving back to the community and game that has treated him so well over the years.
“It's been a pretty neat thing to see [the scholarship fund] grow and do what it did and see how the golf course goes,” Perry said. “So, you know, it is about giving back and about building relationships and building friendships and helping others down the road. I've been helped a lot when I was a kid coming up through here to get it to where I am here today. So it's been just kind of returning the favor.”
One thing is for sure, Perry can rest easy knowing that he has many years ahead as a Champions Tour player trying to win more tournaments, major championships and Charles Schwab Cups, because the golf course project is not paying his bills.
“I've been open 20 years and I've yet to make a paycheck, so I don't know how smart a decision that was,” Perry joked.
But that was never the point of the project; from the beginning, it was all about introducing more people to the game that has allowed him to give back to his community.
Plus, with the way Perry has played over the last year, bills shouldn’t be a problem.
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