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Peterson a common man, but not in golf

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This is going to be a Pete blog.

Greg Peterson has the common nickname of Pete, but he is an uncommon man.

Peterson separated himself further from the rest of us mortals last Tuesday by coming in second in a qualifying tournament for the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.

That's a rare feat for a golfer. Even rarer: it's his second time. He previously qualified in 1992. At that tournament, he had the unusual privilege of playing a practice round with Justin Leonard (several years before his British Open championship). Another player in that tournament was an up-and-coming young amateur named Eldrick Woods.

That he would have this achievement at his age makes it even rarer. At 38, Peterson will be fully twice the age of many of the other 311 qualifiers. Younger players have come to dominate the U.S. Amateur, but it hasn't always been that way. In 1982 and 1983, Jay Sigel (now on the Champions Tour) won back-to-back U.S. Am, the first when he was... 38.

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Playing in such a prestigious tournament -- for the second time -- is very uncommon. Making it an even more unusual experience is that it is at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. That's where the 2006 U.S. Open will be played. Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open there in 1974, as did Billy Casper in 1959. And Bobby Jones in 1929. Fuzzy Zoeller waved the white flag there in 1984, in mock surrender to Greg Norman, and ended up winning. Davis Love III won his first major there, the 1997 PGA.

Maybe the most uncommon of all: Greg is such a nice guy. He could go out the day after qualifying for the U.S. Amateur with a hacker like me and truly enjoy it. In fact, make me and the other hackers in the group not only comfortable but help US enjoy it.

He is truly an ambassador for the sport of golf. If he can help someone else enjoy the sport that has meant so much to him, he does it. Even if it means watching a caliber of golf that is painfully lower than his.

And of course I have a special fondness for him after all the outstanding work he has done for the Post-Bulletin, many years ago as a regular sports writer and in recent years as our freelance golf columnist.

Good luck, Pete. I hope you have an uncommonly rich experience next month at Winged Foot.

Craig Swalboski writes a "blog" style column each Monday and occasional other days for "What's Up." He can be contacted at swalbo@postbulletin.com

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