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Win at 'Buick Open Energized Pernice's Career

Tom Pernice, Jr. fired a final-round 65 to win last year’s Buick Open at Warwick Hills. That round matched the lowest final-round score in the 41-year history of the tournament and made Pernice the 12th player to earn his first professional victory at Warwick Hills.

Michigan Golfer sat down with Pernice recently to discuss what is his only Tour victory and the impact it has had on his career:

MG: The Buick Open was your first victory; how has it impacted your life?

PERNICE: That win probably has made me work a little harder than I had been working. It was a good boost of confidence and it has made me work even harder than I had been.

MG: How has that victory changed your approach to your game?

PERNICE: I am now working with a trainer full-time, trying to get stronger and better fit. I am working with Boris Kuznic, who works with a lot of the players on the Tour. He works with Vijay Singh, Jesper Parnevik, Ernie Els, David Duval and Tommy Armour III.

MG: Why were you able to win at the ‘99 Buick Open when you had not won before and have not won since?

PERNICE: I had been playing a lot better up until that tournament. I played very well at Hartford the week before that. I had a comfortable feeling at that tournament and I had really good pairings all week. It was comfortable and relaxing, but I also made some putts and little things make a big difference.

MG: Your final-round 65 tied the tournament record for the final round; what do you remember most about that round?

PERNICE: I didn’t realize that was a tournament record. What I remember about that round was that I hit some good shots but my putts were going in. I made one from 35 or 40 feet on 16 and another one from 12-15 feet on 17.

MG: You trailed Tom Lehman by four strokes entering the final round; are you comfortable in that position or would you rather try to protect a lead?

PERNICE: Obviously the lower you shoot the better you are going to do, regardless of where you begin. I haven’t been in that position enough to know what I would prefer to do.

MG: What were you thinking as you approached the 18th green on Sunday?

PERNICE: I had not looked at the leaderboard all day so I didn’t know I had a chance to win. I hadn’t looked at the leaderboard because that is not something I usually do. I just usually try to play my game. When I got up there (to the 18th green) though, I had no fear. I had a calm feeling. The man upstairs was looking out for me.

MG: Is there any explanation for the Buick Open yielding so many first-time victories?

PERNICE: I know that a lot of guys won there for the first time, but I don’t know why that is.

MG: Is Warwick Hills particularly conducive to your game?

PERNICE: I have always liked that course. It is straightforward and right in front of you. If that golf course gets soft, it can lend itself to good scoring.

MG: You played only three Tour events from 1992-97 and none in either ‘93 or ‘95; how did you spend those years?

PERNICE: I spent two years playing in Europe and one year in Asia and Japan. In 1995 and ‘96 I played the Nike Tour and before that I was in Asia and Japan and two years in Europe.

MG: What advice would you give a young player such as former Michigan Open champion Tom Gillis who currently is playing in Europe?

PERNICE: I didn’t enjoy the European tour that much because I had played on the Tour here before I went over there. It’s a different culture but it is a good opportunity for younger players. It was not very good for me though.

MG: How have you been playing so far this year?

PERNICE: Things have been O.K. to this point in the season. I was seventh in the Tournament of Champions and finished fifth in Atlanta (at the BellSouth Classic in April). I have played O.K., but nothing real great.

MG: Have you had any significant health concerns during your career?

PERNICE: No, I have managed to stay pretty healthy. I am trying to get stronger right now though, working with my trainer. I am trying to get into real good physical shape.

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