AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was at Augusta, 1958, the first year that soldiers from nearby Fort Gordon were offered free admission and were recruited to man the scoreboards at the Masters, that Arnie’s Army was born. Arnold Palmer won the hearts and minds of the fans and the tournament.
All these years later, a little more quietly, there’s a new movement afoot at Augusta National: How does “Pete’s Army” sound? It’s not a support system for Peter Hanson, mind you, but for John Peterson, a regular on the Web.com Tour who qualified for the Masters by tying for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open. One of Peterson’s friends even designed T-shirts for the week.
“They were sold out in 30 minutes,” Peterson said. “I don’t even know if you can wear T-shirts to Augusta.”
On the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Peterson faced a 20-foot birdie putt and he knew exactly what was at stake. “I looked up at the board,” he said. “If I one-putt, I can tie for the lead, or I can two-putt and get to come back next year and make the Masters. But if I three-putt, nothing happens. So I decided, yeah, I’m just going to lag this thing up there.”
Peterson has made four preparatory trips to Augusta National this year. After filming the trip down Magnolia Lane on his phone, Peterson bogeyed the first and made 17 straight pars for 73, the only time he kept score. On his latest visit (March 26), Peterson flew in on in a three passenger, single-engine 1974 Cessna and parked next to the shiny 12-passenger Gulfstream 4 used by Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.
“We probably exceeded the weight limit on our ride,” Peterson said.
That might have something to do with a little extra baggage on his flight: 20 Augusta National-logo range balls and about 50 matchbooks he smuggled out of town. And Peterson doesn’t even smoke.
“But I would start if they had Augusta National cigarettes,” he said.