Peterson fires 71, misses Masters souvenirs

John Peterson at the 2012 U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio.

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— John Peterson followed the legends off the first tee at Augusta National on Thursday, then put together an impressive round to open his Masters debut. Peterson shot 71 in the day's first group, which teed off immediately after the ceremonial tee shots of Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

“I was hoping they’d leave their balls in the fairway so I could pick them up,” Peterson joked.

He parred his first 12 holes before two-putting for birdies at the two par-5s on Augusta National’s second nine, Nos. 13 and 15. He three-putted the 17th for his only bogey of the day, then missed an 8-foot birdie putt on his final hole before tapping in for his 15th par of the day.

Peterson is playing the Web.com Tour this season, having traveled to Panama, Colombia and Chile before arriving at Augusta National. “This is all anyone has asked me about,” Peterson said of the Masters. He qualified with his fourth-place finish at last year’s U.S. Open.

Peterson’s best performances have come in the toughest tests he’s faced at each level. He won the Jones Cup, one of the nation’s top amateur events, in 2011 with a winning score of 1 over par, beating now-PGA Tour prodigy Jordan Spieth in a playoff. He won the NCAA Championship at notoriously tough Karsten Creek a few months later. His only top 25 in 10 career PGA Tour starts came at golf's most difficult event, the U.S. Open.

“Whenever he’s on a big stage, it focuses him more,” his caddie, Gentry Mangun, said. Mangun’s father, Anthony, is the pastor at the church Peterson attends in Louisiana. Gentry Mangun also caddied for Peterson at last year’s U.S. Open.

Peterson was inspired Thursday after Anthony Mangun showed him an article that listed him under the heading. “Won’t make it to Saturday.”

“I think because nobody really thinks I can do well . . . I was like, 'I'm going to free it up and kill it and see where it goes,' ” he said. “That's what I did. If guys are going to expect me to miss the cut, I might as well go and try to prove them wrong.”

Peterson, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., drives two hours each weekend from his home to attend the Mangun’s church, the Pentecostals of Alexandria. He stays in the Manguns’ house on Saturday evening and has breakfast with the family – usually Shelby’s donuts and milk – before attending church. The Manguns were in attendance at Augusta National, as were Peterson’s parents, Jan and David, and Peterson’s 86-year-old paternal grandfather, Bill, who had a pacemaker installed about seven weeks ago, but walked the first nine to watch his grandson.

“It’s been a lifelong dream,” Bill said of attending the Masters. “I’ve watched it on TV for more than 50 years. I told him this would be a day he would remember the rest of his life."

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