WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Little boys grow up dreaming of a chance to play the PGA TOUR, and John Peterson was no exception.
A three-time All-American and NCAA champion at LSU, the Fort Worth native finally got his chance in 2014. Four years later, though, it looks increasingly likely that Peterson’s career could be drawing to a close.
And the 29-year-old is fine with that.
“Either way. Whatever,” Peterson said on Sunday after shooting a 66 that left him tied for 13th after the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
Peterson played this season on a major medical extension after having surgery on his left hand in 2016 to repair a carpal boss. He had eight events to either make $375,165 or earn 274 FedExCup points in order to gain conditional status for the rest of the season.
The Greenbrier presented his final opportunity. Peterson came tantalizingly close, too, finishing a mere 0.586th of a point shy of extending his season.
At the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, Peterson told reporters he would retire and go into real estate if he wasn’t successful in his quest. He reiterated that decision at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, where he held the first round lead but tumbled to a tie for 42nd.
On Sunday at The Old White TPC, Peterson held out hope for a while after he signed his scorecard. He said he felt like he needed to finish at 9 under, which he did – but not until bouncing back with a 25-footer for birdie at the 17th hole after an ill-timed bogey two holes earlier.
“For some reason, I kind of dilly-dally around and when I have to play good, I seem to,” Peterson said at the time. “Maybe I need to treat every week like my back’s against the wall.”John Peterson followed up a birdie on No. 17 with a par save on the final hole of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier to finish T13. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Peterson came out of the scoring trailer at The Greenbrier, spoke by phone with TOUR officials in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and did one interview before heading to the clubhouse to await his fate. He said he probably would have a few Miller Lites and hang out.
By 7:30 p.m., though, Peterson knew he had come up short. He tweeted “It’s been a fun ride @PGATOUR” along with details of the FedExCup deficit.
On Monday, PGA TOUR officials did an audit of the points and confirmed that Peterson had fallen short.
But while he doesn’t plan to Monday qualify for any PGA TOUR events, seek sponsor exemptions or play on the Web.com Tour, Peterson says he isn’t done with golf – yet. If he is eligible he plans to enter the Web.com Tour finals this fall in an attempt to regain his TOUR card.
“If that goes poorly, I’ll be done,” Peterson said. “But if it goes good, I’ll keep playing. Basically, I’ll keep playing until I can’t play the TOUR, the main tour. I can’t afford my lifestyle on the Web Tour, to tell you the honest truth.”
Should Peterson not regain his playing privileges on the PGA TOUR, he’ll go the real estate route permanently. He is also looking forward to spending more time with his wife Amanda and their 9-month-old son, Luke, who is just starting to be “fun” now, Peterson said.
“I’ve got some land by TCU that we’re developing into some student housing,” he said of the campus near Colonial Country Club, home of the TOUR’s annual stop in Fort Worth. “So I’ll be working on that, obviously be practicing a little bit, being a dad, riding a tractor, taking care of my cows.”
Peterson calls this the “good stuff.” One of the reasons he is at peace with potentially leaving his PGA TOUR career behind is the toll that the travel and time away from his family took on his psyche.
It’s a lifestyle not everyone can handle.
Yes, there are courtesy cars and tournament volunteers catering to a player’s every need. But beyond the birdies and bogeys and practice rounds are airport transfers and hotels, restaurants and room service and Face-timing with loved ones back home.
“I don’t like to be gone. I don’t like being out of Fort Worth. I don’t like being on the road as much as I thought I would.” Peterson explained.
“I mean, in college, we’re playing eight events a year, nine events a year, something like that, and then you go immediately, you make the Web Tour the next year, and you’re playing 30 events and you’ve got to learn how to adjust and stuff.
“That was fun while I was single and I could do whatever I want, eat wherever I want and stay out as late as I want. But now, I’ve got way too many other obligations to be able to travel and do the things I want to do. When my family comes with me, it’s great. But I just don’t like being gone. I don’t like being out of town.”
Peterson said he was struck by the support he felt from his fellow players and caddies at The Greenbrier last week. He said his brother-in-law, Brice Wells, a 7-handicapper who was on the bag, was instrumental in keeping him positive and calm as they made that stretch run, too.
“Seems like I’ve had more support this week than I’ve ever had out here,” Peterson said. “I didn’t know so many people wanted me to make it. Some people wanted me to make it more than I wanted to make it.
“I guess that rubbed off on me this week.”
On Monday, though, Peterson begins his new normal. And it’s a life he’s looking forward to just as much as the one he’s leaving behind.