AUGUSTA, Ga. — About 10 years ago, David Peterson offered to take his son from their home in Fort Worth, Texas, to watch the Masters.
Most golf-smitten youngsters would have leaped at the chance.
But John Peterson told his father no thanks.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to go until I play in it,’ ” David Peterson recalled Wednesday.
A few yards away, John Peterson was teeing off on the second hole of the Masters’ annual Par-3 tournament.
A few hours away from that, John Peterson would be playing in the Masters for real.
The 2011 NCAA champion at LSU, Peterson will tee off in the first competitive group of the 77th Masters tournament at fabled Augusta National Golf Club.
Peterson will be the second player overall to tee off at 7 a.m. CDT, right behind playing partner and 1988 Masters winner Sandy Lyle.
Also in their group is 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith.
Just three groups behind them, former LSU All-American and 2001 PGA champion David Toms will make his 15th Masters appearance, teeing off at 7:33 a.m. CDT along with Richard Sterne and Ted Potter Jr.
Peterson said he’s happy about getting off to an early start.
“I’ve always liked first off,” he said. “Usually when you’re a rookie you get the worst tee times, last and last off each wave. It’s nice in majors that they put first-timers first and first.”
Toms and Peterson played together this week in practice rounds and the Par-3 tournament as the 23-year-old rookie Masters competitor picked the brain of his fellow Tiger exactly twice his age.
“He’s asked quite a few questions over the years,” Toms said. “I’m here any time John wants to talk about being a pro or about golf. Obviously, there’s a lot to learn.”
Peterson may be a quick learner when it comes to playing well in majors.
He qualified for the Masters by tying with Toms for fourth at last year’s U.S. Open at Olympic. It was a performance that came as a lightning bolt in Peterson’s career, including a strike of brilliance with a hole-in-one on the 13th hole in the third round — amazingly enough with Toms as his playing partner.
Being in contention for the U.S. Open was rare air for Peterson, even though he had a strong amateur career. But he didn’t start to feel the altitude until the final hole, when he remembered what was at stake.
“When I was on the 18th green I knew I couldn’t win even if I made the putt, but I knew a two-putt would lock me up for the Masters,” Peterson said. “That’s the first time I got nervous the entire tournament. I lagged up so I wouldn’t three putt.”
The first time he arrived at Augusta National for a practice session last fall, Peterson said he drove 3 mph up Magnolia Lane, his iPhone out the car window recording the entire 330-yard journey.
The ability to hit 330-yard drives can serve a golfer well at Augusta National. The par-72 layout was stretched several years ago to near its current length of 7,435 yards.
“It’s a man-sized course,” Peterson said.
Never a long hitter, Peterson said he actually lost about 17 pounds as he worked his way from stop to stop on the Web.com Tour. That prompted him to start working out with Baton Rouge-based fitness professional Kolby Tullier, who put him on a regimen which David Peterson said has helped his son gain at least 20 yards off the tee.
“When I graduated from school, I was at 175 and got down to 158 in August 2012,” Peterson said. “That’s tiny for me. Now I’m back up to 178, and I feel great.”
It’s been a less than great year for Toms, who has missed the cut in two of his six starts with a best finish a tie for 33rd at the World March Play in February.
“Honestly, I’m not doing anything well right now,” Toms said. “I’m hoping to get it turned around soon.”
Toms seemed to sense some encouragement in his game Wednesday, more upbeat after tying for eighth in the Par-3 tournament in which he peppered several of the pins.
“I’m hoping for” a spark, Toms said.
Peterson should hope to have the same spark Toms had in his first Masters back in 1998.
Toms had his best Masters finish that year, tying for sixth. He tied a pair of Masters records that year which still stand: lowest final round (64) and best score on the back nine (29).
Peterson has seen enough of the Masters before to know he needs to play aggressively as he heads down the hill from the clubhouse to play the back nine.
“The front nine is really just a maintenance nine,” Peterson said. “Then you’ve got to go to the back nine and try to make birdies.”