Almost 49 years old. In most sports that signifies that you are long past your expiration date. That is older than Michael Jordan, Bruce Smith and about the same as Cal Ripken, recent hall of fame inductees whose productivity in their sport has long since left them. Almost 49 years old is still young in business and politics, but in the world of sports is not the age when you achieve your greatest accomplishment. Even in sports where a particular skill (like golf or bowling) is more important than overall athleticism this is an age where you are honing your game for the seniors events, not out competing for the biggest prize the sport has to offer.
It may be improbable, but competing for the Masters title is just what Kenny Perry is doing just a few months before his 49th birthday. The native of Franklin, KY is just 18 holes away from a dream; a dream that will have taken 25 years of professional golf to achieve, a major championship. It won’t have the drama of Jack Nicklaus storming the back 9 to win in 1986; but he will be more than 2 years older when he walks up to 18 today.If Perry does win today , he will be the oldest major championship winner….EVER; and he will become just the 5th man over 45 to win one.
If Perry can pull this off it won’t be received with the acclaim of the Nicklaus win or even Greg Norman’s run at the top in last years British. That is mainly to do with what Kenny Perry is, an under the radar guy that has slowly but surely (like the tortoise) won the race. Many won’t see this as a big underdog story because Perry hasn’t “gotten old” and been uncompetitive at his this age. What makes the Perry story even more impressive in my eyes is how he has played his best golf at this advanced age. He has won 13 tournaments in his career; but instead of peaking during his thirties as most do, he has won 9 of those titles since he turned 42. Last years hero Greg Norman was not even playing in all the majors at Perry’s age. Jack Nicklaus is obviously the greater all-time golfer, but his win in ’86 was a huge surprise. Perry near the top of the leaderboard in 2009 is to be expected.
Perry is not without some underdog qualities though. This is only the fourth time in his long career he has made the cut at Augusta and his best finish was 12th all the way back in 1995. So don’t mistake this moment as just another Masters. If Perry can continue to perform at such a level and captures the green jacket today; his accomplishment should not only stand as the greatest old guy moment in golf, it should be placed alongside Foreman KO’ing Moorer, Agassi making the US Open final, Julio Franco playing forever, and Dara Torres winning medals in the “how can they keep doing that” Hall of Fame. So raise your Schlitz(or Pabst or whatever old men drink) today and toast Kenny Perry as he tries to make history; and think about Dwight Eisenhower, because that’s who was President when Kenny was born.