Kenny Perry earned a king's ransom — $4.6 million — on the PGA Tour last year, cashing in during a seven-week stretch when he won three tournaments and had two other top-10 finishes.
J.B. Holmes also had a successful season on the PGA Tour. He won his second FBR Open title with a playoff victory over Phil Mickelson, gave Tiger Woods a fight to the finish in a memorable match-play showdown, led the PGA Championship after two rounds, and earned the princely sum of $2.1 million for all his efforts.
But the crowning achievement for Perry and Holmes in 2008 had nothing to do with money or personal glory.
It had everything to do with the 37th Ryder Cup.
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Their clutch performances at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville helped the United States beat Europe for the first time in almost a decade.
That's why Perry was voted the Herald-Leader's Kentucky Sportsman of the Year for 2008 by media members from across the state, and why Holmes was runner-up.
Perry, a Franklin native and Western Kentucky University alumnus, also won the award in 2003.
He joins Tim Couch (1995, '97), Roy Kidd (1981, '82) and Rick Pitino (1990, '96) as the only two-time honorees.
"(Perry's) concern was not tremendous riches or fame or major championships," wrote James Brandenburg, sports director of WBKO-TV in Bowling Green. "But to represent his country on the Ryder Cup in his home state."
Holmes, a Campbellsville native and former University of Kentucky All-American, was followed in the balloting by former UK basketball player Rajon Rondo, who helped the Boston Celtics win the NBA title.
Adam Bender of Lexington, whose inspiring story of playing youth sports despite losing his left leg to cancer when he was 1 earned national attention, finished fourth.
The Ryder Cup was Perry's Holy Grail. He announced early in the year that his single-minded goal was to make the U.S. team.
After a slow start to the year, Perry caught fire in late spring and in short order won the Memorial, Buick and John Deere to clinch a spot on the Ryder Cup roster.
Before arriving at Valhalla, Perry put the onus of expectations on his shoulders.
"It'll be my legacy," he said. "People won't remember my wins; they'll remember how I performed in the Ryder Cup."
Perry and Holmes handled the pressure with aplomb. They each won 21/2 points, and helped galvanize the fans who were eager to cheer on their home-state heroes.
Perry called the Ryder Cup "the greatest experience of my life.
"I figured it was going to define my career. But you know what? It made my career."
Holmes was just as overcome with emotion.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; the best moment of my life," he said.