LSU Standout and NCAA Champion John Peterson rocketed to lofty heights on the professional scene when he backed up a Monday qualifying at the Memphis PGA Event with a 4th place finish at the US Open at Olympic Club. The formula for John’s success is age old and quite simple, yet all too often overlooked by those with remarkable talent, namely, stay humble and work hard. In short, talent is not enough on the professional tours and failure lurks for the touring pro not in touch with these fundamental principles. John is looking forward to an exciting 2013 with The Masters and the US Open at Merion on the schedule and a full time slot on the Web.com Tour. The following interview is a reflection of John’s refreshing attitude and outlook.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you qualified for the US Open at Olympic Club? How did you play at qualifying and how did it feel once you knew you were going to be in the field?
A: After I shot 63 in local qualifying, I signed up for the Columbus, Ohio site where most of the TOUR guys go because of the high amount of spots available. I ended up getting put in the overflow site which was 2 hours away in Springfield, Ohio. Only 2 spots were available with about 60 guys playing. I played very well there and shot 64-67 to finish 2nd and lock up my spot. Obviously, playing in my first major hit me then and I just couldn’t wait to get there.
Q: You played the PGA event the week before at the St. Jude Classic, do you think that your experience there helped out at Olympic?
A: Absolutely. I Monday qualified for that as well. It was my first taste of playing with guys I had watched on TV. I was paired with Boo Weekley and Henrik Stenson, so playing with them really let me know that I could play with the best.
Q: Did you have a game plan going into the Open that you wanted to execute? You played practice rounds with fellow alum David Toms as well as Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk right? What did you take away from those rounds heading into Thursday?
A: Didn’t really have a game plan. During my practice rounds, I thought the course fit my game very well. Well enough to win. I knew that if I just stayed within myself I would be there on the weekend with a chance because of the demanding tee shots Olympic requires. Playing with those guys was great, Dufner is really cool and Furyk actually does use Five Hour Energy. That was really the only question I had for him. It was actually a little crazy because all 4 of us ended up tying for fourth at the end of the week.
Q: Looking back, did you realize at the time that a good finish would help jumpstart your career?
A: Yes. I have always been a confident person, but you don’t really know how you stack up until you play against the best. That’s where you draw all your confidence from.
Q: You had a lot of success in college winning the NCAA individual title and having great finishes at other big collegiate and amateur events, did that experience help you keep things under control throughout the week?
A: Yes. Even though the Open was a great week, I still consider my NCAA Championship my proudest moment to date. Holding the course record at the toughest campus course in the country is quite an honor considering who Oklahoma State has had come through that program.
Q: Was it harder to pull the trigger on the first tee on Thursday or the first tee on Sunday? What was the most nerve-racking shot you hit all week?
A: I didn’t really feel any nerves all week until the 18th green on Sunday. They had the huge scoreboard there and my name was 3rd from the top. I knew that a 2 putt would probably get me to Augusta, and since I really couldn’t win, I got a little nervous but still hit a good putt.
Q: Your round on Saturday was a memorable one to say the least. Talk about your hole-in-one on 13. What did you think after you hit it and were watching it in the air? This was your first ever hole-in-one right?
A: I think I said “come on” right after I hit it. We were trying to carry it 167, and let it release to the pin. When I hit it, I knew it was going to fly the number, I just needed a straight bounce. When I got that, it only took a few seconds and it disappeared. That’s when I lost it. Just 100% sheer joy. It was my first one, on the back nine of a major, playing in the second to last group in front of Tiger Woods. Pretty special.
Q: What was it like teeing off on 14? You had to know that your ace put you in good position, right?
A: Well, the ace was on Saturday, but somehow hit a great teeshot on 14 with the same ball I had just made the ace with. I forgot to change it out until I got to the 15th tee.
Q: What was one thing you did throughout the week that allowed you to score and stay in the hunt, whether it be mental strategy, routine, ball striking, etc.?
A: I just kept reminding myself that I have won on the highest levels of competitive golf and that the only reason some think these guys are “better” than me is because of the media attention and the intimidation that comes with knowing everything about someone before you meet them.
Q: Were those the toughest conditions you have ever played in? You obviously knew they’d be tough as it’s the US Open, but how did it feel to experience them first hand?
A: They were not the toughest. While they certainly were difficult, the conditions at the NCAA Championship my senior year were the toughest I have competed in. US Open conditions are hard, but they got it right, if you hit good shots, they ended up good. You couldn’t get away with a mis-hit.
Q: What advice would you give to fellow up and coming professionals who may be struggling with the transition into the professional side of the game?
A: I would say just stay humble and keep working. The one thing that really can take everything you have from you is cockiness. Success only lasts as long as you work. So, keep your nose to the grindstone and know that one day, it will all pay off.
Q: Your T4 finish exempted you into this year’s Masters as well as the US Open at Merion. Can you talk about how special it will be to play in The Masters this April? Will it be your first time playing Augusta National?
A: I have played Augusta National 3 times now. And it is just like it is on TV. Just perfect. There isn’t anything out of place.
It will be special. I will have my grandfather there who lost his wife of 60 years last June and it will be his first trip to Augusta. I’m so excited for him. To have my parents and siblings there will be a treat, because they have never all been together to watch me compete.
Q: With guaranteed starts in 2 majors and full status on the Web.com tour this year, what are your goals as you begin the 2013 season?
A: I want to win twice on the Web.com tour and finish top 5 on the money list. That’s my main focus. I think the best way to the PGA Tour is through the web.com tour and Im excited to get it rolling. I just wish it started earlier than middle of February!
Be sure to follow John this season. He’s a guy that will be hard not to root for given his talent and attitude toward the game. Players like him add to the fun an excitement of professional golf. Big thanks to John for taking the time to talk with us.