At first, Mark Peterson of Salem, Ore., didn’t know what to make of his son’s phone call from Aberdeen in July 2012.
“What do you mean you won?” Mark asked son Paul Peterson who was taking a victory ride back to the Moccasin Creek clubhouse in a golf cart.
The younger Peterson had just won a one-hole playoff over three other golfers in the 21st annual Western Printing Pro-Am. He earned $15,000, and it was his first pro win after just eight starts as a professional.
“I was six shots back when I started the final day at last year’s tourney in Aberdeen,” Paul said. “My dad couldn’t believe it when I told him that I won, and had a hard time processing how I won. Then he didn’t want to let me go because he wanted the details. But I had to get to the awards ceremony.”
Peterson is back in Aberdeen this weekend to try to defend his title at the 22nd annual event today through Sunday. The $68,560 pro purse annually draws one of the better pro fields on the Dakotas Tour. It is not usually for pros in Aberdeen to end up in the major leagues of golf, the PGA Tour, or its developmental league, the Web.com Tour.
“I am looking forward to coming back to Aberdeen,” Peterson said earlier this week. “Hopefully, I can defend my title. It was a fun atmosphere, the members at Moccasin Creek are great, and it is a really good course. It is a place that will always be very special to me.”
Peterson hopes the Web.com Tour or an overseas tour is the next step in his game. Peterson, who turned 25 July 1, is planning to play in his first qualifying school this fall in hopes of taking that next step.
Peterson feels as if he is on the verge of a breakout tournament. He has been playing well this month on the Dakotas Tour, finishing in the top 10 in two recent tournaments in Sioux Falls and winning nearly $10,000. He was fourth at Bakker Crossings and sixth at the Westward Ho tourney which ended Sunday.
“My game is starting to take form and I feel good about where it is at right now,” he said. “But you need to be working on all facets of your game at all times. If you get complacent about one part of it, it usually will come back to bite you.”
Peterson, an Oregon native who played at Oregon State, said college golfers can have success making pars. “You can hang in tournaments if you make pars in college. But as a pro, you need to be making birdies. You need to be aggressive and stay aggressive. Your putter needs to be your best friend all the time. If you are not making putts, you are not scoring.”
Peterson said the Dakotas Tour is a great place to develop that kind of mentality. “These courses teach you how to go for pins and how to get comfortable making a lot of birdies. This tour is a great place to grow as a professional as well as a place to earn some money.”
Winning the Aberdeen tournament last year was a stepping stone in Peterson’s career. “It gives you confidence and makes you feel like you belong and that your hard work is paying off. Also, it makes a difference with sponsors. They want to know you can win. There is a big difference in finishing second and winning.”
Peterson is hoping to earn another $15,000 Sunday, and to make another phone call to his dad Mark.
“My dad has always been my number one fan and supporter. And whenever I win as a golfer, he will always be my first phone call.”
22nd annual Western Printing Pro-Am
Where: Moccasin Creek Country Club in Aberdeen.
Who: 50 pro golfers on the Dakotas Tour will be competing for $68,560, including a first-place check for $15,000. The 150 amateurs will be playing for prizes worth more than $20,000.
When: Today (7:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. tee times), Saturday (7:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. tee times), Sunday (8 a.m. shotgun tee times for amateurs and 1:15 p.m. start time for the top 20 pros — could be more if ties — who survived the cut).