Perez comes to Buick a winner


Ex-LJ resident recently earned career victory

For seven years, Pat Perez toiled on the PGA Tour without a victory to his name.

The native San Diegan - who grew up playing at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla - had come close, finishing second in two tournaments during his rookie year of 2002 and registering 25 top-10 finishes in his career, but it wasn’t until last month that Perez finally dislodged the proverbial monkey from his back.

Perez comes to La Jolla and the Buick Invitational this week having secured his first career win on Jan. 25 at the Bob Hope Classic in La Quinta. Hoisting a trophy for the first time brought him a visible sense of relief, and he said it changed his perspective on the game.

“It just gives you a sense of … you belong now,” Perez told reporters last week. “You’ve proven yourself, not necessarily to everybody, but to yourself, and you feel like - how can you not have confidence when you win a major tournament like that?”

Perez, 32, spent part of his childhood living in La Jolla and graduated from Torrey Pines High School, then went on to play college golf at Arizona State.

His rookie season in 2002 offered plenty of promise, as he finished second in two tournaments and finished in the top 10 in four others.

He was largely inconsistent for the next four years, though, registering two, one, four and one top-10 finishes from 2003 to 2006. The 2007 and ’08 seasons offered some promise, as Perez found himself in the top 10 five and six times, respectively, those years.

Perhaps sensing he was on the verge of a breakthrough, he re-dedicated himself to golf during the offseason and overhauled his swing.

“I usually just screw around and play and have some drinks and whatever,” said Perez, known for being more candid and less politically correct than most professional golfers.

“But this time it was serious. I got to a point in my career, after seven years now, that I was just tired of being average. I was tired of being nobody. And I know that can I play.”

Perez is clearly no longer a “nobody” and has a strong following in San Diego.

In seven starts in the Buick Invitational, he has mostly played well, and finished tied for sixth in 2005. Chances are that local fans may keep a closer eye on him this week.

“I’ve always had confidence that I could do it,” Perez said. “It was just a matter of time before I got myself in contention a couple more times and I would be comfortable being there and make it happen.”

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