Thursday, October 09, 2008
FRANKLIN, Ky. - For the first time ever the annual Bison Golf Scramble was played at Kenny Perry’s Country Creek Golf Course.
The main reason for the change was that at the awards dinner Thursday night PGA golfer Kenny Perry and Franklin, Ky., businessman Ronnie Ferguson were both inducted into the Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame. The inductions were a surprise to both honorees.
Perry was honored in the category of meritorious service. Ferguson, a team captain and a three-time MVP for the Lipscomb golf team in 1960, ’61 and ’62, was honored in the categories of athlete/meritorious service. He also served as manager of the basketball team.
The two will be forever linked in the world of Lipscomb University athletics. When Perry was struggling to earn a spot on the PGA Tour in 1985 he went to Ferguson asking for financial help to be able to continue with his qualifying efforts. Ferguson gave the money to Perry, but he also asked for something in return. He asked Perry to promise him that if he did make the PGA Tour that he would donate a percentage of his earnings to Lipscomb.
“I don’t think you can be a part of the world of golf and not know their story,” said Scott Saunders, major gifts officer for the Lipscomb Development Office. “They are two of the most humble guys I know. You would have to read about their story to know about it. In the Lipscomb family they are certainly a dynamic duo.”
Perry and his wife, Sandy, a 1981 Lipscomb graduate, have continued to honor that handshake agreement made more than 20 years ago. Twenty-six students from Simpson County have attended Lipscomb due to the contributions of Perry.
“In my view Kenny is the best golfer in the world,” Ferguson said. “But the greatest thing for me is the kind of man Kenny Perry is. He has remained humble and has been true and faithful to his God. I respect him for that.”
“Twenty-two years ago when Kenny and I sat down to talk about the situation I was so amazed at what he had in his heart and mind. He wanted to be a mentor and example to other people. I can honestly tell him today that he is the same man that he as back then.”
Ferguson has no problem summing up Perry in a colorful manner.
“Kenny is a like a good, old country ham hanging in a smokehouse,” Ferguson said. “He gets better with age.”
Ferguson, honored as Lipscomb’s Christian Business Leader of the Year in 2004, is firmly entrenched in the Lipscomb family. He met his wife, Emily, at Lipscomb. His two children, Stan (1987) and Bard (1990), are Lipscomb graduates.
Perry knew that when he asked Ferguson for help that he was asking for a financial sacrifice.
“Ronnie gave me $5,000 and told me I never would owe him a dime if I didn’t make it,” said Perry. “That impressed me. I knew he didn’t have the money to give me at time with two children at Lipscomb.
“He didn’t put any pressure on me, but he taught me a life lesson. You only go through life once and you find examples of people you want to aspire to be like. Ronnie is that kind of person. I look up to Ronnie.”
Perry has captured 12 championships and is a fixture at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings. In 2006 he became the 10th man to reach the $20 million mark in PGA earnings. Last month he enjoyed one of the most memorable weeks of his life as he led the United States to the Ryder Cup Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
“I’m shell-shocked,” said Perry of his honor. “I have never been blown away like this in my life.”
Sharing the spotlight with Ferguson made the moment both special and emotional.
“Ronnie is truly a great, humble man,” said Perry. “There is no one more deserving of this award than Ronnie. Our relationship…our friendship will last forever. You have taught me a lot. We all love you.”
Ferguson, despite his many honors in collegiate golf, downplayed his career at Lipscomb. He played for Eugene “Fessor” Boyce, the first inductee into the Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame.
“They asked in chapel if anyone had a set of golf clubs,” Ferguson said. “I had an old beat-up set I had found somewhere. I raised my hand and I was on the golf team. I played for Fessor Boyce who was a wonderful man.
“Lipscomb means so much to our family over the years. This award is very special to me. Getting this award along with Kenny is so special. I appreciate what Kenny means to golf, what he means to the Lord’s church, what he means to the community and the kind of man that he is.”