Pro golfers ‘feel at home’ in Conover

PGA and Champions Tour golfer Kenny Perry arrived in Catawba County on Wednesday and it “immediately felt like home.”

“People sound like I do when I talk, and I feel very comfortable around here,” Perry said. ““Being a country boy, I enjoy the South and it’s very comfortable being around people like this. It’s very nice.”

This is Perry’s first trip to Catawba County for the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, but the 14-time PGA tour winner said Monday it was an easy decision to select Rock Barn.

“The people here are wonderful,” Perry said. “Here, it seems like people want to make a difference, and that’s pretty special. That’s pretty nice.”

The Kentucky native is a veteran of the PGA Tour, but is playing “half and half” on the Champions Tour as well this season for the first time.

In addition to Perry’s 14 PGA tour wins, he notched two second-place finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship respectively.

Perry said he went to the home of Rock Barn developer and owner Don Beaver on Wednesday night and could say nothing more than “wow, this is one of the biggest houses I’ve ever been in.”

“Don’s a great guy, and I enjoyed sitting and talking with him,” Perry said.

In addition to playing with Beaver on Thursday, Perry also played a Pro-Am round with Benny and Scott Yount, who own Kia, Porsche, Volkswagon and Volvo dealerships in Catawba Count.

Perry was not the only golfer praising the Greater Hickory area Monday.

Eight-time PGA tour winner and crowd favorite Fred Funk also said he has a special connection with the area.

“I love this town,” Funk said. “I really enjoy it around here.”

Funk, a NASCAR enthusiast, said he has developed a good relationship with the Jarrett family over the years.

“I’ve become really good friends with Dale and Ned, and I’ve been playing over at Catawba (Country Club) with those guys a lot,” Funk said. “It’s almost like a family feel around here, even though I don’t have family around here.”

Funk originally met the Jarrett family after becoming a “NASCAR nut” earlier in his life. He added that he, Dale and Ned play at Catawba Country Club often.

Funk, who recently qualified for the PGA Tour's U.S. Open, said the people around the Catawba County area make the tournament one of his favorites.

“It’s just a friendly feeling, and a nice, laid back tournament,” Funk said. “There are a lot of great people. I know they appreciate that we’re here, but we really appreciate that we’re here too.”

Funk said he appreciates the hard work tournament officials put in to keep the tournament at Rock Barn.

“We almost lost it, and we didn’t want to lose this tournament,” Funk said. “As a player and a voice of the players, we are really happy we didn’t lose this tournament. We don’t want to lose any tournament, but this is one that we really didn’t want to lose. You can’t go wrong when you’re in the Carolinas.”