Perry Sets Sights On Florida Open Defense

Welcome to Perry Time. It’s that time of the year when reigning Florida Open champion Rod Perry has his game in shape and is ready for each and every challenge that comes his way.
Living the life of a Florida club professional, it seems that it’s this time of year or never. Perry realizes it, and sets his sights on it.
This year’s edition of the Open will be played Friday through Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club and Sara Bay CC in Bradenton.
“I realize that at this time of the year is when I have a chance to play well and I try to make sure that I’m ready in June, July and August,” Perry explained. “As a result, I’m highly confident for when the bell rings.”
If his confidence had any shaky underpinnings, he solidly braced them at the PGA Professional National Championship, played on the Bayonet Black Horse course in Seaside, Calif., where he finished tied for second with Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C. The fact that the eventual winner, Matt Dobyns of Lake Success, N.Y., had a nine-stroke lead entering the final round didn’t swamp Perry’s resolve.
“I knew Matt had a huge lead,” he said. “But I just kept looking forward. In my mind, I wasn’t then looking to finish in the top 20 (and qualify for the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in August) because that would be looking backward. I wanted to play as well as I could and finish as high as I could.”
He certainly accomplished that with a 3-under-par 69 – tied for the low score in the final round.
It’s one thing to be competitive, but it’s another to have to sort through the game of golf to find the most effective way to compete. Perry has had to find his own way.
“Any success for me has come from putting in time in the system,” he said. “I don’t come from a golf family and I didn’t have to rise to the level of my brothers, or my dad. I had to learn by trial and error.”
What the 38-year old Perry has found within himself is a way to maximize his talents and what those talents will allow him on any given day, but it hardly has been an overnight success story.
“It’s just been a matter of time,” he said. “I’ve played enough at the state and national level. I’ve played in 10 PGA Tour events. These situations have become more normal.”
Just at a time when it appeared Perry would be entering a comfort zone in regard to his playing career, he tossed what could have become a sizeable monkey wrench into his state of competitive normalcy. He started a new job.
“In the past,” he said, “I’d been a Director of Instruction or a teaching professional at a club. Starting three months ago, I became the head professional at Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club in Port Orange. In this role, the responsibility is a lot bigger. I have 22 employees and a budget of $1.5 million. The responsibility is certainly much greater.”
The situation that Perry describes quite often is a death knell for a competitive golf professional, but such has definitely not been the case.
“I can’t speak highly enough about the people here at Crane Lakes,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful. They want to use my playing success as part of their marketing strategy and they’ve been tremendously supportive. It’s been an ideal situation.”
Last year, Perry had the benefit of having played Black Diamond Ranch many times before the Open. This year? Not so much.
“I haven’t played either of the courses,” he said. “I may have to cram 36 holes into a day before the championship so that I can at least see them. I’ll just take a lot of notes. If I hit fairways and greens, I shouldn’t get into much trouble.”

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Hank Lebioda of Winter Springs became the fifth golfer to twice capture the Florida State Boys Junior title when he toured Sawgrass Country Club and the TPC Sawgrass Dye Course in 210 strokes, good for a four-shot margin ahead of Orlando’s Ryan Stovash.
Lebioda, the 2010 champion in the 16-18 age division, opened with a 3-under-par 69 on the Dye Course, followed with a 71 at Sawgrass CC. He closed with a 2-under 70 in the final round on the Dye Course.
In the Boys 13-18 division, Reunion’s Andy Zhang continued a scorching summer run with three consecutive rounds of 70 for a 6-under-par 210 total, good for a three-stroke win ahead of Jack Comstock from Jacksonville.
Zhang termed the win his biggest to date. In June, the 14-year-old became the youngest player to qualify for and play in the U.S. Open in its 112-year history.

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