Rod Perry of Port Orange, 19 other club pros representing PGA Championship

Along with the well-known one-name icons of the golf world — Tiger, Phil, Rory, Sergio and so on — there are 20 much lesser-known entrants in this week’s PGA Championship who are the pride of the Palm Beach Gardens-based PGA of America.
Led by Rod Perry of Port Orange in central Florida, they were the top 20 finishers in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship held in June in Sunriver, Ore. They represent 18 states and the thousands of PGA club pros who help make up the foundation of golf in America.
“It’s a great honor,” Perry said.
This isn’t the first time Perry has qualified for the PGA Championship. He also played his way into last year’s event at Kiawah Island, S.C., where he carded rounds of 75 and 82 to miss the cut by seven shots. He feels better prepared this time around after shooting a 10-under-par 277 for the win in Oregon.
“You have to keep in mind that you’re playing an extremely difficult golf course,” he said. “It’s not the relation to par that matters in these majors, it’s how you stand up to your own test, if you will. You kind of set a benchmark on what you think is acceptable play and what you would like to achieve.”
Like his 19 cohorts, Perry’s first order of business is running a golf club, not playing competitively, and he said there are times — particularly during the busy winter months — when he finds time to play only once a week, if at all. But he said both ownership and the members at his Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club have been a great help in that regard.
“As long as the golf course is in great shape and as long as the business is financially sound, it’s really kind of easy to get away,” he said.
Perry said that while it “might be a little bit naive” to think any of the club pros could win this week, they do have goals of their own.
“To be the low PGA professional is a huge honor, wherever that might fall,” he said. “But you certainly hope for the absolute best. If I play well, I’m happy, no matter how I finish.”
Club pros helped formed the base of the PGA Tour when, after years of PGA of America representatives traveling south during the winter to play for prize money, the idea came about for a full-time tour that began in 1968.
“Obviously times have changed,” Perry said. “There’s been a separation between professional golfers and golf professionals.”
Only one club pro, John Nieporte of Trump International in West Palm Beach, qualified for the U.S. Open, and he missed the cut. Perry said he’s hoping for a better showing this week.
“Certainly the club professionals are watching the 20 of us and are wishing us the absolute best,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe this is the year where one or two or 20 of them happen to play really well and have a great week.”
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