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Farmers’ a Family Affair for the Perez Boys

January 22, 2017

By Judd Spicer

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, November of 2015.

PGA TOUR staple Pat Perez rounds to the back nine at El Camaleon GC seeking salve in the second round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. His body hurting, his game and career leaking oil, the 15-year tour vet is desperate to make the cut and gain the FedEx Cup therein.

It doesn't happen.

Perez makes bogey on Nos. 16 and 18 (preceded by a double on 14) to miss the weekend by a shot. The let-down portends the season-to-be.

"All I had to do was make a par on 18 to make the cut. And I made bogey. I felt so dejected, just crushed," the San Diego-bred Perez recalls. "I took a shuttle back to the room, got inside, and I took my bag and fired it as hard as I could inside the door and clubs and stuff went everywhere. Everywhere. I sat on the edge of the bed for 15 minutes, thinking in disbelief, 'How the hell did you screw that up so bad?'"

Such disbelief was just beginning.

Playing with a bum right shoulder, Perez's wraparound 2016 season would see him play seven more events into the winter, with five missed cuts authored for his efforts. In March of '16, he'd undergo surgery on his right labrum and an eight-month layoff would ensue.

"The 2016 year in general was like nothing I could ever have scripted," says Perez. "The west coast events, which I love so much, to have played so poorly and then find out I had to have surgery … I'm down and out and out of the game. Then I get a call from Callaway telling me they're going to drop me. So, I had no company behind me, and I had limited starts anyway. To be all the way down in the toilet, playing terrible, having surgery, my club company drops me and being forced to take off seven-plus months … I'd never taken more than three weeks off in my entire career."

Historically regarded for a burning disposition on-course, Perez could have opted to use said flame to burn a hole in the turf, never to be heard from again after a solid, if not spectacular career scripted with over $17 million in earning and nearly 50 top-10s to go with just a lone win at the 2009 CareerBuilder Challenge.

But Pat Perez isn’t about to be a golf afterthought.

"The motivation I had coming back was second-to-none," states Perez. "To have people tell me I couldn't do it, I just got really, really mad. And I guess it just completely fueled my fire. My work ethic is ten times more than it's ever been – nothing was going to stop me from coming back and, basically, shoving it up everybody's a**."

Crediting his wife Ashley, along with his new clothing line partnership with TheChive and William Murray Golf (yes, that Bill Murray), for which Perez is the first brand ambassador, the Torrey Pines High Grad is approaching the new season dressed in fresh incentive .

And his inner circle is noticing the changes.

"I think the layoff reminded him of what he has, and what he could lose," says Pat's father and longtime SCGA member, Tony Perez. "I think he became mentally stronger; when you have everything coming your way, your game is good, you've been on TOUR a long time, you kinda' get lax, become a journeyman. But I think Pat came to realization, 'Here I am 40-years-old. What happens if I don't make it back?' He's not the same kid. He did a 180-degree turn on me mentally, and he's stronger. I'm very proud of him for that. I was like, 'My kid has grown up.'"

Swinging like 40 is the new 30, Perez returned in October of '16 with a tie for 33rd at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia before grabbing a T-7 at the Shriners two week later.

Come his November return to Mexico, enter the shower scene:

"Before the final round, I was in the shower, and it was a longer shower than usual," Perez remembers. "I was just staring at this point on the ground and going over the events of what was going to happen that day, all day. And they say, 'Don't get ahead of yourself,' but when guys wake up on Sunday to, say, play football or they're in the NBA Finals – everybody wakes up with that confidence, that belief that they're going to win. They just know it. LeBron James feels that way, Tiger felt that way every day of his life. It's more than a belief, it's an attitude."

Eight years since his lone TOUR win and eight months after Instagramming an image of himself in a hospital bed, Pat Perez dumped his doubters with a final round 67 to find victory at the OHL Classic.

"On that Sunday (at Mayakoba), I wasn't scared," says Perez. "When I'd been in contention before, I guess I was a little afraid of what the outcome could have been and didn’t want to screw up."

Favoring fervor over fear finds Perez ever-eager for the west coast swing, namely, for his annual return to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey, where he grew up shagging range balls.

"It would be more important for him to win at Torrey Pines than to win The Masters," says Tony.

At the Farmers (Jan. 26-29), the Perez boys enjoy more than the progeny's hometown event. For Pat and Tony – Torrey is a family affair, seeing the son working to best his T-2 finish of 2014 and the father enjoying the unique opportunity to announce his surname.

Tony has been volunteering at the event for 27 years, having started with measuring shot distances on No. 9 South before he eventually became entrenched as the starter on the South's first tee.

"The very first time I announced him I barely got it out," says Tony of Pat's Farmers debut of 2002. "He just looked at me from the tee box and from underneath his arm is was, 'Dad . . . c'mon.'"

Adds the son:

"It's great, but, that first year, in '02, was pretty emotional," recalls Pat. "Any dad would dream of announcing their son in any sport. But over the years I've told him, 'Look, dad, this is a hard shot; I gotta' get going.' Every time he's announced me and it's a long deal, I've missed the fairway."

Seguing from pomp to pummeling the tee shots proves an annual share of both pride, pause and nerves for both the Perez boys.

"I'm probably thinking the same way he is, 'Damn, better hit this in the fairway,'" laughs Tony. "And, yeah, I get nervous; it's like every shot that Pat has ever hit while I've followed him, even back to junior golf. Those nerves as a parent never go away, at least for me they don't."

Together, the Perez boys also team for a battle in earnest outside the ropes.

In 2008, Tony Perez founded Operation Game On (operationgameon.org), a SoCal-based non-profit dedicated to providing golf instruction and TaylorMade equipment to combat-injured military members.

"I've heard it countless times, 'Your dad's program has saved my life," says Pat, who participates in programs as scheduling affords, but defers all Operation credit to Tony, himself a Vietnam veteran.

Seeing his father's inspired efforts with wounded soldiers has provided Pat context during a time when he's assessed his own mettle.

"It's awesome, and it gives you such perspective," Pat concludes of Operation Game On. "I mean, here I am, I get to play golf for a living; these guys went over and fought for this country and they believe in that more than anything. And their brotherhood is incredible. I've heard hundreds of their stories, seen hundreds of these guys come through the program, and it's just amazing to see their strength."



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polknm

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pat. We lived next door to your folks when you were born.  I remember how proud your Dad was that day. We were next door neighbors for about 5 years.  Tell your Dad hello from Steve and Linda Marshall from the good old Glendale, Az days. We now live in Eastern Az. Near Safford.

thevaporz

Handicap Index: 12.9
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Go get ‘em, Pat!

WolftrackPJ

Handicap Index: NH
Friday, February 03, 2017

It is always great to see stories like these in which individuals have garnered the basic principle of humility.  The respect for which Tony and Pat have towards others lead to very honest camaraderie and friendship for those fortunate to have known and been around them.  It is truly a blessing that we get to live and play the game of golf and meet wonderful people like the Perez boys.

Elliot Powers

Handicap Index: NH
Monday, January 23, 2017

Pat, you and your family used to live across the street from my parents (my dad, Murray Powers, is now 97 years old and still looks for your name every week in PGA Tour events) in High Bluff. He’s a true fan and really enjoyed the time he used to spend with your mom. Of course, he’s had me rooting for you as well. After reading this piece, I’m even more of a fan, as I see many of my mental golfing demons in a similar fashion—although on a MUCH lower level. Although I can’t be in San Diego to watch (I run a golf club in China for my wife’s family), I’m pulling for you to KICK SOME BUTT out there this week, throughout 2017, and for as many years as you can compete!

Elliot Powers

temp23

Monday, January 23, 2017

This story should inspire all golfers whether professional or amateur! It’s never too late to get better, to strive for more and to persevere the challenges of health, life and longevity.
Golf is a luxury. Its a game that mirrors life and those of us who are fortunate to “play” it know that we are blessed every time we stick a tee in the ground and look down the fairway. AsTony Perez knows well from his selfless work with Operation Game On, life can be very hard after losing an arm or a leg or your perspective on reality, after experiencing “real life and death” situations in mortal combat.
Perspective is sadly missing in many golfers lives and it is when the possibility of not being able to play becomes real, that’s when we should really understand what life and golf are and cherish every moment we have on the course; it could be gone at anytime. Glad to see Pat having a good time with the sport and recognizing his blessings.

eht87

Monday, January 23, 2017

Good luck this week Pat!!!

Bob Carrasco

Monday, January 23, 2017

It’s great to see him play golf again, and hopefully this will be for ever as a winner with an even temperament.

ploka

Monday, January 23, 2017

keep up the good work… go for it!!!

GB

Monday, January 23, 2017

Great article, great family.. Pat your dad and mom are the real deal.. OGO is a fantastic program and has huge impact on many of our lives.
Best of luck Pat on your turn around..
GB
USN Retired
32yrs Veteran

patfan

Monday, January 23, 2017

Great to see you back and doing so well Pat!