Pernice, 53, fights for PGA Tour card
LA QUINTA, Calif.
Tom Pernice Jr. of Murrieta, Calif., is 53. Si Woo Kim of South Korea is 17. Both are competing in the PGA Tour Q-School at PGA West.
I thought about dropping this bomb on Pernice on Thursday: “Tom, you are more than three times as old as the youngest player in the Q-School.”
Instead, trying to be sensitive, I asked him if the general perception of age is changing in professional golf.
Pernice, a very sharp guy, didn’t miss a beat: “You’re just as old as you feel," he said. "The ball doesn’t know how old you are.”
“How old do you feel you are?” I asked.
“I feel like I’m 40,” said Pernice, who opened the Q-School with consecutive rounds of 71 for a 142 total.
I thought about telling Pernice that Kim had posted rounds of 67 and 69 for a 136 total, but nobody wants to be thrashed by a wet-behind-the-ears teenager who won’t turn 18 until June 28. So I kept quiet.
If Kim finishes among the top 25 and earns a PGA Tour card, he would replace Ty Tryon as the youngest player to make it through Q-School. Tryon was 17 years, 6 months and 1 day; Kim would be 17 years, 5 months and 6 days.
Tryon’s career hit a roadblock, but, obviously, there is no stopping the youth parade in modern golf. Kim, who owes much of his success to instructor Bryan Lebedevich at PGA West, is one of many talented teenagers who are mature beyond their birth certificates.
There is an obvious lesson to be learned from the age disparity of Pernice and Kim: Golf truly, absolutely is the game of a lifetime. Such an observation has been made many times before, but just think of what Pernice is accomplishing.
At 53, he is attempting to continue his career on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. In 2012, he played in 23 tournaments on the PGA Tour and 10 on the Champions Tour.
Please give this man an endurance award. Call him Tenacious Tom. To play in 33 tournaments in one calendar year is a spectacular achievement.
“I came here to try to keep my options open,” he said. “The opportunity to play either place is very appealing. As long as I feel I can compete, then I will try to play on both tours.”
The PGA Tour, though, would be his preference.
“I still want to play against the best in the world as long as I can,” he said. “There’s nothing like playing on the PGA Tour. It’s fantastic. It’s the greatest stage to play on. I love the challenge.”
I was talking with Bob Estes recently, and he predicted that more and more players would attempt to stay on the PGA Tour after reaching the age of 50.
“I don’t want to think about the Champions Tour until I’m 53, 54 or maybe 55,” said Estes, who is 46.
Pernice, a good friend of Vijay Singh's, predicted that “If Vijay keeps playing like he is, I guarantee you he’s not coming out (on the Champions Tour) for quite awhile.”
Singh will turn 50 on Feb. 22.
Meanwhile, senior amateurs also received a word of encouragement from Pernice.
“Take care of yourself, stay in shape, keep playing in tournaments,” he said. “It takes dedication, but there’s nothing like tournament golf.”
He should know.