Patrick Peterson never played golf while growing up in South Florida. He was too busy becoming one of the best football players in America.
Peterson starred as a cornerback and running back at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. He was named Defensive Player of the Year by USA Today in 2008. He had five interceptions his senior year, but opposing teams rarely threw in his direction because of his ball-hawking skills.
Peterson verbally committed to the University of Miami, but changed his mind and went to LSU, where his career continued to blossom. He was a unanimous All-American his junior season when he won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the country’s top defensive player and the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back.
He turned pro early and was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. But the NFL was going through a lockout at the time because the collective bargaining agreement had expired.
That’s when Peterson finally tried golf.
“I had to find something to do with my time after I worked out, so I grabbed a 7-iron and went to a place near where my apartment was in Hollywood,” Peterson said. “The first ball I hit went straight. I thought, ‘This game isn’t so hard.’”
Once the lockout ended in late July, Peterson quickly showed why football comes easy to him. He made an immediate impact, intercepting a pass from Philip Rivers and returning it for a touchdown on his first play in a preseason game.
That highlight was a sign of things to come.
He made the Pro Bowl team his rookie season as a return specialist, thanks to four touchdowns on punt returns. The next seven seasons Peterson made the Pro Bowl as a cornerback, despite being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2015. Only one NFL corner, Champ Bailey, has made more Pro Bowls (11).
Having just celebrated his 30th birthday, Peterson has a legitimate shot at breaking Bailey’s record. However, Peterson’s Pro Bowl streak ended last season after he was suspended for the first six games for a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy (players who receive PED suspensions are ineligible for the Pro Bowl).
Peterson flashed some of his skills when he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week late in the season after recording seven tackles, three pass breakups and intercepted a pass from Baker Mayfield during a 38-24 win.
He still has plenty of football ahead of him, and his golf game continues to improve. He finished 18th in the recent American Century Championship, a top celebrity event near Lake Tahoe.
He knows the game is a lot more difficult than when he first swung the 7-iron.
“I love golf because it’s a different challenge every time I step on the course,” Peterson said. “The wind may be a factor one day, the undulations of the green a factor another day. It’s a tough sport to master.”
What is your favorite course?
Kingsbarns in Scotland. It seemed like every hole you were in your own world. Although the course was links style, they had this high fescue. It didn’t seem like an 18-hole course. Each hole seemed like it was its own course. That’s why I love it.
What is your favorite course in South Florida?
The Grove XXIII (in Hobe Sound). I only played it once, but it was awesome. Michael (Jordan) is the man. When you have the ability to build your own course and design it the way you want, that speaks volumes. Obviously, he can pay for it. It’s one of the better courses in South Florida.
What is your handicap?
I’m a 2.7.
What’s your lowest round and what course?
I shot 68 a bunch of times. The first time I was in Australia.
What is your favorite club in your bag?
My 60-degree. I love hitting wedge shots. That’s where you make your money. If you hit it close and make some putts, you can do some damage.
How often do you play?
During the offseason, I play twice a week. It’s tough to play during the season, but I try to get out on Fridays.
What is your golf philosophy and do you have a favorite swing thought?
I play fast. I don’t have any thoughts when I approach the ball. I’m a football player, so I’m stiff up top and it’s hard for me to get a maximum (shoulder) turn.
Are you self-taught or did you work with an instructor?
For the most part, I am self-taught. I got the opportunity to see Butch Harmon in 2016, and I think that’s what really helped my game turn the corner. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos and read a bunch of books.
How many holes-in-one have you had and which one is the most memorable?
None. I’ve come close seven times, but still waiting patiently.
When did you start playing golf and become serious about it?
After hitting balls during the lockout, I actually started playing a lot in 2013. Being an athlete, you have to find something to do during your time off. A normal human being doesn’t usually have that much time off at a time. Having the ability to network and meet new friends is great. And me being a football player, those competitive juices are always flowing. Playing golf helps me with my patience. Things may not go the way you want them to go, but if you stick to the plan and fall back on your fundamentals, you can get yourself out of problems.
Who would complete your dream foursome?
Definitely Tiger. And Jack (Nicklaus). I’ve played with Michael a bunch and Ray Allen. I would go with Barack Obama. I have never met him before, so I would love to play golf with him.