Perrino, an amateur golfer of great potential in his formative years, competed regularly alongside Molinari as they both made their mark in the unpaid game as up-and-coming youngsters.
Molinari, of course, would go on to forge a mighty career in the professional ranks which reached an historic high on Scottish soil when he became the first Italian to lift the Claret Jug.
Perrino’s own dreams of following his countryman as a successful touring player suffered a terminal blow, however, when his leg was shattered in a scooter accident at the age of just 17 before a viral infection in the same limb almost cost him his life.
“It’s sometimes not easy so see Francesco on TV because the feeling inside of me is that I could maybe have done that too in my life,” said Perrino, who enjoyed a taste of DP World Tour life when he was invited to compete in the Italian Opens of 2020 and 2021.
“The difficulty is that I didn’t get the chance to see if I could compete at that level. That was my dream and it is a big regret and something that has been hard to deal with for me.
“I remember playing Franceso in the Italian Amateur Championship. I had just qualified for the matchplay stages with rounds of 74 and 79. I was one-up on Francesco after nine holes and he said, ‘Tommaso, how do you shoot 74 and 79 playing as well as this?’ We had a great match and he eventually beat me on the last green. I always cherish that match, though. You could see even then that he would be a superstar.”
Love of the sport
While Molinari went on to become a major champion and Ryder Cup hero for Europe, Perrino would eventually find fresh, restorative opportunities in the game that is his passion.
Coaching all walks of golfing life gives him enormous fulfilment while his undiminished competitive fires get stoked by regular outings on the EDGA circuit and the G4D Tour, where he has enjoyed considerable success. Golf has provided a sanctuary for both body and mind.
“I had always loved coaching and always enjoyed helping others,” said Perrino, who is part of the Ryder Cup 2023 Project focusing on social inclusion in his home country. “That allowed me to stay in golf, which is the sport I love. After the accident, I started to dream again. Golf gave me a life.”
Perrino’s golfing talents were underlined once again last season when he surged to a five-shot win over leading players Brendan Lawlor and Kipp Popert in the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle in Northern Ireland.
A new addition to the Perrino family is keeping him busy, but the Livorno man is confident he will be fully focussed on his golf in time for the Woburn showpiece.
“With a four-month-old we are not sleeping a lot and it’s not been easy to put my energy into golf,” he admitted. “But once I get to Woburn, and work on my game, I will be ready. The G4D Open is a wonderful opportunity and it is a huge ambition of mine to be the first champion. To have The R&A’s support is a big development for the disabled golf movement. Disabled golf is growing and growing.”
For Barry McCluskey, a will to win runs deep. His footballing father, George, was a striker with Celtic in the 1970s and early 1980s and now acts as his son’s guide on the golf course as they work together to plot a path to success.
McCluskey junior, a promising footballer himself, saw his ambitions of following in his father’s stud marks dashed when he lost the sight in his left eye at the age of just 18. In 2017, McCluskey lost the sight in his other eye through the same devastating condition of Keratoconus.
Yet he has refused to allow his disability to be a barrier to sporting success and the 41-year said.