Kenny Perry arrived at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine last August as the two-time defending champion of the 3M Championship. He left wondering how much more golf he had left in the tank after a 37th-place finish.
Perry withdrew from the U.S. Senior Open the week after the 3M, took two months off, then limped into the inaugural PGA Tour Champions playoffs 40th on the money list.
Without enough points to qualify for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Perry returned home to Kentucky figuring it was time to trade reading greens to chasing grandkids. He was “75 percent” sure his golf career was over.
“I didn’t see any sense in continuing to beat my head against the wall,” he said.
But feeling “rejuvenated” at age 56 after a winter away from the course, Perry decided to give the Champions Tour another go in 2017.
He made one heck of a good call.
This time at the U.S. Senior Open, Perry outlasted Kirk Triplett to win by two strokes. He’s added a pair of runner-up finishes in 13 starts this season and sits in third on the money list.
“I was at a stage in my career where I didn’t know if I was ever going to win again,” Perry said. “To win a USGA event — our Open — it really pumped me up. Gave me a big boost and momentum.”
While most players tend to see a decline in their play after age 40, Perry actually accelerated. Eleven of his 14 PGA Tour victories came in his 40s. He made the Ryder Cup at age 48 and was fully exempt on the PGA Tour until he was 53.
Once on the Champions Tour full time, he won three majors in two years.
Perry never took a break, and it caught up with him last season.
“I was frazzled,” he said. “I’ve always been a power player [off the tee] and when I saw a little decline there it was easy to sit back and say, ‘You know what? It’s been a good run. Let’s enjoy the time we have left.’ ”
For now, that will continue to be on the golf course. Perry said his game is close to where it was in 2015, when he won the 3M for a second time.
One of his shoulders aches, and he’s battling tendinitis in his wrists and elbows.
“But I can still hit the golf ball,” he said.
Like father, like son
For the first time in 25 years of the 3M Championship a father/son combination will have its scores in the record books.
Gibby Gilbert played in 12 tournaments from 1993-2008. On Tuesday, son Gibby Gilbert III shot a 4-under 67 in the tournament qualifier and earned one of the final spots in the field after a playoff.
He caddied for his father when the event was held at Bunker Hills in the 1990s. “Dad never won here, so I’d like to be the first,” Gilbert said.
Top tee times
Steve Stricker and Bernhard Langer join defending champion Joe Durant as the marquee tee time for Friday’s first round. The group tees off at 12:40 p.m.
Fan favorite and course co-designer Tom Lehman is paired with Perry and Rocco Mediate at 1 p.m.