Just Practice, but Perry Impressive; Cochran Out

This eagle putt went in for Perry

Ho hum. Kenny Perry, the 50-year-old PGA pro from Franklin, Ky., lined up his second shot on the par 5 second hole at Valhalla and smacked it some 250 yards, and the ball settled about 15 feet from the hole. After signing a few more autographs and posing for a picture or two with fans, he calmly dropped the eagle putt. Routine. For good measure, Perry birdied holes 3 and 4, all the while joking with a gallery of 50 or so and dodging raindrops in Tuesday’s Pro-Am at Valhalla.

Of course I’m pulling for Perry, who finished his college career at Western Kentucky in 1982, just like me,  and is two weeks older than me.

Of course, there’s no pressure when you’re playing with duffers on Tuesday. Just before Perry’s magnificent second shot on #2, three of his four playing partners flew balls out of bounds into Valhalla’s unforgiving rough. That seemed to delight onlookers as much as Perry’s brilliance. “That’s what I’d have done,” I heard one say after a dude in shorts, lucky enough to get a pro-am slot, hit one sideways.

This shot by Terry Meiners on #4 got kind of close

A group ahead, a media foursome was having an up-and-down time of it. Terry Meiners of WHAS Radio, Jody Demling of the C-J, Matt Hobbs of WHAS-TV and Kent Taylor of WAVE-TV weren’t setting things on fire, but probably provided some amusement for their pro, Mike Reid. None got too close on the par 3 third hole. On the 4th, Hobbs hit a monstrous drive, then plunked his next shot about 20 yards into a sand trap.

Despite rain that forced officials to close down a parking lot, the course was pristine, and it may just have been the best day of the week to see the pros do their thing. The crowd seemed a bit light, with plenty of officials everywhere directing them where to go.

The bad news for local fans is that Paducah’s Russ Cochran withdrew from the tournament, citing a wrist injury. I knew this way before it was announced, because LouisvilleKY.com contributor Holly Brockman Johnson, who happens to be Cochran’s cousin, spoke to Cochran’s mom in the morning. Paul Azinger, captain of the Ryder Cup team that won here in 2008, also withdrew.

Kitchenaid, in its first year of sponsorship of the championship, published a cool booklet highlighting the best places to watch each hole, along with a recipe for The Alfred, a Tim Laird-created bourbon concoction that’s the official drink of the event.

If you go, there’s plenty to do if you tire of watching the pros. Mercedes Benz has a display in which fans can have their swings analyzed. Near the 13th hole, there’s a golf shop and an incredibly immaculate KitchenAid demonstration area, where colorful mixers and blenders are displayed as if they were trophies. A series of famed chefs will be performing here throughout the week, and today Chris Covelli wowed us with a recipe for seared chuck and candied tomatoes.  Seviche chef Anthony Lamas is among the nine nationally-renowned chefs participating.

Tomorrow is a full practice day and a great chance to see the pros work on their game. Military personnel get in free as the PGA honors the military.