Today, The Wildman catches up with a wild man in his own right: John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA medalist and recent LSU graduate.
Question: What has life been like since you won the medalist honor at the NCAA Championship?
Answer: It has been nonstop. I have done my fair share of celebrating, but I have also had to continue to work hard. I’m putting the gas pedal down right now. Making the Walker Cup is not a lock, and it’s been a blast. Over the last few weeks, I have been hearing from more people than I could have ever imagined, and then I have Kelly Tilghman and the Wildman leaving me voicemails. Never thought winning at Karsten Creek would be that big a deal. It’s been pretty cool. I knew the team title was a big deal, but never thought winning the individual championship would bring so much recognition.
Q: Austin Ernst won medal at the Women’s NCAA Championship, are you two close? What do you know about her game?
A: I don’t know her too well, since she was a freshman. We’ve played a few times, and I’ll say this: She’s freaking good. She bombs it! She’s going to be really good in college golf. She can probably drive it past me if she wanted to. She drops bombs, I mean mad bombs. She has got to be dropping bombs against the girls she’s playing with, by 40 or 50 yards.
Q: If you didn’t win the NCAA Championship, would you still be trying to make the Walker Cup?
A: Yeah, but if I hadn’t won the Jones Cup, then things might be different. I would assume that right now I have as good a shot as anyone. There’s no ranking, but I feel like I would make a real good teammate. I didn’t know how big a deal being medalist in Oklahoma was going to be until we were through 36 holes of competition. The allure of pro golf will always be there, but to represent your country is just a huge honor, and that opportunity may never happen again. Making the Walker Cup would be awesome and be an unreal deal. With the win at NCAAs, it’s made me want to save money this summer and play more amateur events so that I can earn a spot on Jim Holtgrieve’s squad.
Q: What happened to LSU at Karsten Creek?
A: We didn’t even show up. It’s like we all got sick or something. We were one hell of a team all year. The only time we had all our top five guys at the same tournament was at nationals. I thought we really had a good shot as a top-10 team entering the tournament. When I was the most shocked was when I was 6 over through the first nine holes of the championship, but we were 6 under as a team. When I finished, I thought we’d be up by a touchdown or two. I don’t know what happened. I thought we would be in it, but we were around 20th. I figured on the last nine of the third round the team was out of it, so I buckled down and decided to grind it out.
Q: What tournaments will you be playing in this summer?
A: Players Am, Publinx, Porter Cup and U.S. Amateur Championship. I had a tragic happening in my U.S. Open qualifier, and that is why you will not see me there this week. Kelly Kraft from SMU was caddying for me. I asked him what he thought the number would be and we agreed that the number would be 7 under. I was 5 under with five to play, and decided to start going for something. My driver let me down, and I made a triple and a double on two of my last five. I got to 18 and finished at even, but when I saw the last score to make it was 4 under, I was absolutely furious. It’s just one of those situations where you think the number will be lower than it is. I didn’t know what others were doing, so I tried doing more than what was needed. Turned out all I needed was to shoot even on the way in, and I would be at Congressional.
Q: Who are the type of guys whom you think would represent the U.S. well at the Walker Cup?
A: I think since it’s a team thing, great team guys should make the team. I love team play. When you get to play as a team, it’s a rare thing to do to be able to partner up with someone. I think Harris English, Russell Henley and Scott Langley would be great. Those are three guys that I know would embrace the team concept and you wouldn’t have to worry about them playing for themselves. I don’t really know (Patrick) Cantlay, but he’s a great player. When putting the team together, it should be guys that want to play with each other and not just represent their country for themselves. To be a part of this team is once-in-a lifetime, unless you made a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Nathan Smith clearly is a good team guy; I think he’s been on the team 4,000 times, so he knows how to be a standout guy. The team should be made up of guys that are friends and want to cheer for each other.