Craig Perks warns Danny Lee over burnout
Craig Perks is both hugely impressed with and slightly concerned about the emerging talent that is Danny Lee.
Lee is in for a hectic year as the 20-year-old New Zealander endeavours to take his game to the next level by plying his trade on both the European Tour and the second tier Nationwide Tour in the United States.
Lee's schedule for the season will take in 35 tournaments, a huge workload without even factoring in the constant trans-Atlantic flights and the associated hassles with customs and immigration officials.
And that alone is enough to set off alarm bells for Perks, who is worried his compatriot's long-distance commuting will wear down the young man.
Perks, who in 2002 became the only New Zealander to win the Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major, warns that Lee will have to be careful as he strives to better himself while having a foot in two continents.
"That can take a tremendous toll, even on a kid of that age," he said after Lee finished tied for seventh this week in the Louisiana Open at the Le Triomphe Country Club, 12km from Perks' family home in Lafayette where he just happens to be the director of golf when he is not on the road in his second job as a Golf Channel analyst and commentator.
"As hard as he's working he just has to be careful that he doesn't over train and that he's fresh every Thursday, more so mentally than physically."
Perks cited Lee's fourth-round meltdown at the Panama Championship in late February as an example of what can go wrong.
Having posted rounds of 66 and 65 to grab the second-round lead ,Lee tumbled from contention on the last day when a nine-over-par 79 saw him slip from eighth place to a tie for 38th.
"That may not just be a bad score, it may be due to the fact he was worn out, especially after playing three-four events in the Middle East before flying all the way out to Panama," Perks said.
He accepts that Lee, a workaholic who spends countless hours on his game even during a tournament week, has lessons to learn and the best way for the young man to do that is for him to go out there and make mistakes.
"You can't learn anything from sitting at home and hitting balls on the range. You do have to go out and play, but you have to pace yourself.
"Thirty-five events is a lot. But sometimes it is not quantity of events, it is more quality, and the best guys in the world are only playing 16-17 over here plus a handful in their own countries."
Perks should know what he's talking about, having earned $US3.36 million ($NZ4.41 million) in tournament income before quitting life as a touring professional at the end of 2007 after his game did a runner and he banked just one cheque on the PGA Tour in two seasons.
The 44-year-old was happy to be in the right place at the right time to make time for Lee when the Korean New Zealander fronted for the Louisiana Open in his third outing in the Nationwide ranks.
"I watched him with a keen eye reasonably closely and I was very impressed with his work ethic. He was one of the first guys to arrive at the golf course each morning and one of the last guys to leave.
"He was there at sun up and it wasn't getting light until seven o'clock, and sometimes he was the last guy to leave at seven o'clock at night.
"He worked on his game after every round and it was really good to see. I think hard work goes a long way and when you add in the talent that he has, then the world is his oyster right now.
"He certainly has the talent and I saw it for myself that he has the work ethic. The sky is the limit for Danny. He's young even though he may be a little raw around the edges."
Lee has yet to kick on and fully express himself after an encouraging start to his professional career in 2009.
After being crowned US amateur champion in 2008 and within months of becoming the youngest winner of a European Tour event, the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, huge expectations accompanied Lee's arrival in the play for pay ranks.
He and fellow teens Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa were touted as the next generation of bright young things destined to give the game an almighty shake.
McIlroy has lived up to that billing while rising to eighth in the world rankings and Ishikawa has turned admiring heads also, although his ranking of 45th has been held back due to largely playing in his home country.
Lee? Well, he is yet to prosper fully and his ranking of 513th comes after close to two years of regular change among his support team, as a series of coaches and caddies have been tried and discarded.
Perks hopes Lee will be allowed to settle down with familiar faces around him.
"He's now working with an unknown coach in Dallas and they're working on some things and he feels very comfortable with his golf swing and said it was the best he's ever swung the club.
"More than anything you've got to have a plan. I know his father is there with him every step of the way and he now has a another Korean as a caddie so it seems like they have a good solid team together - and a plan."