Peters living dream season after 16 trips to Q-School

Peters living dream season after 16 trips to Q-School

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Peters living dream season after 16 trips to Q-School

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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2015 issue of Golfweek

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t as if he didn’t occasionally check for exits, or put an ultimatum on himself, or briefly meander into the real world for a taste (not for him, he decided).

He did all of that.

It’s just that golf being impossible to figure out, every time Justin Peters thought an off ramp was around the corner, darned if he didn’t do something to stir the embers deep within and remind himself that quitting wasn’t an option.

Sensible, perhaps. Just not an option.

Peters laughs. “I know an outsider looking in would think it’s crazy.”

Crazy?

Peters’ odyssey probably qualifies. But what was it Freud said? “Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.”

• • •

And on the 16th try . . . success.

No, not the PGA Tour spot he has been stalking since graduating from Nevada in 1999, but Peters is proud to have the Web.com Tour card earned via his T-11 in the final stage in December.

It was just the second time in 16 trips to the annual Q-School that Peters had made it to the final stage, but on the other occasion (T-125 in 2009) he had left with only “conditional” status on what was then the Nationwide Tour.

This time he’s in uncharted waters. He’s on the threshold of turning 38 but finally within a step of proving he belongs on the PGA Tour. “I’ve never had full status,” Peters said. “This is a whole new experience for me.”

He figured it would have come years earlier, perhaps in the aftermath of his 2003 victory in Golf Channel’s inaugural “Big Break.” But there were no breaks, only material to go with one of those 15 chapters that ended with Q-School letdowns, years filled with scrambles to find a place to play and whispers to get on with his life.

His resiliency is to be admired, though Peters is quick to agree that some will question his decisions – notably backing himself at times with a credit card at exorbitant interest rates.

You’re thinking: The man doesn’t know when to quit.

Have you considered: Peters is willing to try harder than others.

“One of the reasons I coach him is, he’s driven and he’s passionate,” Bill McInerney Jr. said. “He’s a very good listener.”

They are Boston guys – Peters having grown up in Pembroke, south of the city, and McInerney a golf instructor at McGolf in nearby Dedham – who share a passion for practicing this game.

“I think we have a very good template,” McInerney said. But of this, the teacher is adamant: “When he runs out of money, he plays his best.”

To wit: Q-School in 2009 – aka Trip No. 11 – when Peters told his then-wife, Shelle, that he would quit if he didn’t make it to the final stage. He breezed through the first and was rolling at the second when in the final round he started spilling oil early.

“Nearly crapped my pants,” he said. “The severity hit me: my whole career was on the line.”

Then he aced the par-3 eighth at Hombre Golf Club in Panama City, Fla., “and at that moment, I knew my time had come.” He shot 67 to advance. “I didn’t have to quit.”

It led to a $71,957 season on the Nationwide Tour, but not enough to retain playing privileges. Each fall since, the ritual has been the same. “I have had to think about what I’m doing come January if I don’t make it,” Peters said.

Various jobs helped supplement his income – a caddie at Adios Golf Club in Coconut Creek, Fla., telemarketing nights for a septic-tank company – but Peters wasn’t going to give up his dream. Steady success at the mini-tour level – Peters played them all in the Southeast – paid the bills and kept him inspired. Meanwhile, a patient and faithful sponsor who prefers anonymity stuck by him.

But even that man – “And he’s been so good to me,” Peters said – wondered whether 2014 might be the end. By late summer, the account backed by the sponsor had dwindled to less than $2,000, and Peters was struggling on the PGA Tour Canada. “I was at the lowest point of my career,” he said. “I wasn’t bad. I just wasn’t good.”

Down to his final $100, Peters talked with the sponsor, and it wasn’t easy. “It’s time for a new career path,” the man said. Surprising himself, Peters replied, “I think you’re right.”

One day later, Peters asked for a mulligan. “I had a few things come up and I begged, in a way. I said, ‘I’ve been doing this for 15 years. What’s another couple of months?’ ”

What transpired was vintage Peters. He went from 4 over through 26 holes to riding a birdie train and finishing seventh at the first stage of Q-School. Next week, he won a playoff in an eGolf Professional Tour stop in Reno, a $37,000 prize. He followed by taking medalist honors at second stage, then he was T-17 in another eGolf event. When the roll concluded with scores of 68-67-71-73-69-68 to earn his Web.com Tour card, Peters had one thought: “I couldn’t have written a tale like this.”

There is a 16-year-old daughter, Azia, who lives with her mother – Peters’ former girlfriend – in Ohio, and a son, Domenick, 6, who lives with his mother – Peters’ ex-wife – in Indiana. Peters knows his career path makes things difficult, but he sees his children in the summer and both recently visited in Stuart, Fla., during school vacation.

“Everyone has a different way to be a parent,” he said. His way may not be your way and it may be unconventional, but Peters hopes he serves as an inspiration to them. “Maybe they can look up to me and learn that you don’t have to give up, that you can give it that extra push,” he said.

How many extra pushes are required to make a dream come true? It’s not in a blueprint; it’s in the heart.

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