You don't see many 20-year-olds playing the PGA Tour, but it's even rarer to find someone that age with my job: swing coach to one of the top-ranked players in the world. That would be Kenny Perry, whom I've known for most of my life. His son, Justin, and I have been best friends for years. When I was a kid, Kenny helped me with my game.
I became a scratch player, but I found that I liked teaching more than playing and had "a natural gift for it," as Kenny says. A few weeks after I graduated from high school in 2003, I started teaching professionally at Country Creek, the course Kenny owns in Franklin, Ky.
Kenny first asked me to have a look at his swing about a year and a half ago. I wasn't all that surprised. I knew he thought I was a good teacher, and nobody knows Kenny's swing better than I do--I've been watching him play since I was a little kid.
When Kenny won at the Colonial in May, he told the press I was "a genius." I don't know about that, but I know I have a good eye, one of the three things that make a good swing coach. The other two are knowing how the swing works and being a good communicator. I've never had a problem getting through to Kenny (although I can't say the same for Justin, who is not quite as good a student as his dad).
Kenny's swing isn't hard to maintain. His backswing is a little different, but the downswing is perfection, in my opinion. From shoulder high to shoulder high, it's right on plane, and he has great weight transfer and extension through the ball.
Still, everybody needs a little help once in a while. That's where I come in. During the U.S. Open, Kenny's posture was a little off: He was getting slumped over. We got that fixed, and the next week at Westchester he hit the ball a lot better, tying for third.
I've traveled with Kenny most of the summer, which has been great. (I'm used to being on the road--my father, Tom, plays steel guitar with George Jones.) But after last week's NEC, it was time to head back to school. For the last three years I've commuted to Western Kentucky, which is near my home in Franklin. I'm working toward a business degree, and at the same time I'll give lessons at Country Creek and work on getting certified as a teacher by the PGA. I hope that when the time comes, Kenny will write me a decent letter of recommendation.
Some people, including a few on Tour, have suggested that I'm a little too young to be doing this. I always say, "Give me five minutes with you. I'll change your mind."
TRUST ME by GARY VAN SICKLE
Jay Haas will be teeing it up more often on the senior circuit. He's not having much fun shooting 75s on the regular Tour.
Killen, 20, is a golf pro and college student.