The corn in the fields around Franklin, Ky., was shoulder-high
last week. The four clocks on the tower of the Simpson County
courthouse were in perfect working order. The Gaslight Cafe, on
the town square, offered a juicy hamburger with a bag of chips
for $2.50. "It's not exactly Mayberry," said Sandy Perry, "but
it's close." ¬∂ Sandy is the wife of PGA Tour veteran Kenny
Perry, Franklin's leading citizen. (As in, leading the Memorial
by six strokes with eight holes to play.) Kenny was in Chicago
on business last week, but Sandy was home, along with their son,
Justin, 17, and daughters Lesslye, 19, and Lindsey, 15. Not to
mention two dogs, three cats and a cockatiel that whistles the
Perry's alarm code. "Let's hope nobody steals our bird," Sandy
Franklin, a town of 7,996 people about 40 miles north of
Nashville, is also home to Kenny Perry's parents, three sisters,
various nephews, nieces and cousins, a brother-in-law who co-owns
the public golf course that Perry designed and built out by the
interstate, a garage-owner buddy who services the golfer's small
collection of vintage cars and dragsters, and about a thousand
other people who remember Kenny as the first-grader who went to
school with a cast on each arm after he fell off a roof reaching
for a Frisbee.
Franklin has been in the spotlight since Perry won the Bank of
Annika Colonial a month ago, having shot a 61 in the third round,
and then followed up the next week at the Memorial with his sixth
career Tour victory. Other pros hail from small towns, but not
many show up regularly at the Frosty Freeze for a banana milk
shake, as Perry does. He's a deacon at the Franklin Church of
Christ on Main Street. He's an assistant coach for the
Franklin-Simpson High golf team. When he works on his game at
Kenny Perry's Country Creek Golf Course, he puts a token in the
ball machine, like anybody else, and finds a spot on the range
between the 20 handicappers.
The course itself testifies to Perry's everyman view of life. "He
built it to be user-friendly," says club manager John Jackson.
"All the trouble is to the left. It's a slicer's dream." Working
with Perry is a dream as well, according to Matt Killen, the No.
2 player on the Franklin-Simpson team. "He's helped me with my
game, helped me with clubs, even taken me on a few trips," says
Killen. "He treats me like a son."
Franklin, in turn, treats Perry like its favorite son. Signs in
storefronts last week hailed his achievements as if he were a
high school basketball team in the throes of March Madness. (GO
KENNY!) Several merchants pitched in recently for a full-page
congratulatory ad in the weekly Franklin Favorite. There are
plans for a Kenny Perry Day. "He's been a good boy all the way
through," explains his father, Ken Perry, a retired insurance
salesman, as he watches the first round of the U.S. Open on TV
while Kenny's mother, Millie, visits the hairdresser. "He's never
smoked a cigarette, touched alcohol or said a bad word, and he
won't listen to a dirty joke. That's very unusual in this day and
There is only one area, it seems, in which Perry defies town
values: his wardrobe. Specifically, those Technicolor shirts he
wears at tournaments to promote his hot-sauce sponsor, Tabasco.
When Kenny won the Colonial, Sandy cleared out his closet and
distributed shirts to about 25 friends, who wore the outlandish
threads when they greeted him on Sunday night at the Bowling
Green airport. It took a minute to sink in, but Kenny's eyes
suddenly got wide. "You all have on my shirts!" he said.
Fundamentally, Franklin is a community in which you can send the
kids out after breakfast and not worry if you don't see them
again until nightfall. "We knew it was a great place to raise
children," says Sandy. She should know. She was a child herself
when she met Kenny in kindergarten.
Like most folks in Franklin, the Perrys spent last Thursday and
Friday close to a television. "If Kenny makes the cut, we're
going to Chicago," Sandy said, as her kids played a boisterous
game of pool in the family's new rec room. A few blocks away
Kenny's father watched from an easy chair, worried that the
hoopla following his son's back-to-back Tour wins had interfered
with Kenny's preparation for the Open. "I don't guess he got two
days' rest last week," Ken said. "I'm afraid he'll be tired."
Kenny was tired, but he scraped together rounds of 72-71 at
Olympia Fields and made the 36-hole cut on the number. But since
he wasn't in contention (he would shoot 69-67 on the weekend),
only Lesslye made the long drive to Chicago. Sandy, who has been
busy decorating a 3,000-square-foot addition to the Perrys' brick
house, decided to attend her regular Friday-afternoon Jazzercise
class. Lindsey opted to spend time with friends. And poor Justin,
who earlier in the week had shot his best-ever tournament round,
a 67 in a junior event, reluctantly agreed to stay in town on
Saturday to take his college-entrance exams.
There wouldn't be a garishly dressed contingent at the airport,
but Dad would be coming home on Monday all the same.
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER STREET SMART The pride of Franklin (opposite), Perry quietly tied for third despite making the cut on the number.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY SIMON BRUTY [See caption above]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: GREG FOSTER (2) FIRST FANS Perry's dad, Ken (right), and his kids (from left), Lindsey, Lesslye and Justin, were glued to the tube on Thursday.
72 | 71 | 69 | 67 | -1 | T3rd
"He's never smoked, touched alcohol or said a bad word," says
Perry's father. "That's unusual in this day and time."