April 2013

Make that a Dozen for Champ Carl Peterson

Author: Paul Devere

When 2012 RBC Heritage champion Carl Pettersson walked up to the green on Harbour Town’s #18, he knew his 14 under was the winning number—by five strokes. He had the trophy, the check, the tartan jacket, everything. Everything, that is, except what is more important to him than golf: his family.

The 2012 Heritage was Pettersson’s 11th appearance at the Heritage, and he said his family always comes. Pettersson makes his home in Raleigh, N.C., so it’s an easy trip, one the whole family thoroughly enjoys. But school commitments got in the way last year, so wife DeAnna and kids Carlie and Chase missed being there for that par putt on #18 that made him the champ. It won’t happen this year, at least as far as the family being on Hilton Head for the 45th RBC Heritage.

The PGA Tour lists Pettersson as Swedish, which he certainly is. He was born in the port city of Gothenburg. But he has dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. Due to his father’s job with Volvo, he spent his last two high school years in Greensboro, N.C. He went on to attend North Carolina State, where he was a two-time All American and two-time All-ACC. He won the European Amateur in 2000, the year he turned pro on the European Tour.

North Carolina State is also where Pettersson met his wife DeAnna, who is now very involved in the PGA Tour Wives Association, a fund raising and charitable organization, where she is membership vice president. In a series of articles written by Tour player’s wives for PGATour.Com, she wrote this about their first meeting:

“When we first met, I thought Carl had already graduated, but he was actually going through Q-school in Europe. I asked, ‘So, what do you do?’ He replied, ‘I play golf,’ and I said, ‘Yes, but what do you do for money?’ Oops. It took me a few dates to live that down.”

Pettersson has been using a belly putter for 16 years. The U.S.G.A and the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club, the two ruling bodies of the game, intend on banning the “anchored putting stroke”—the stroke executed when using the long handle or belly putter—in 2016. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has said the Tour opposes the ban.

The 35-year-old has won five times in his career on the PGA Tour and had one victory on the European Tour. In a recent interview with CH2, here’s what he had to say:

CH2: This will be your 12th Heritage. What is it about Harbour Town and Hilton Head Island that stands out for you?
Carl Pettersson: I just love the whole thing; I love the golf course. It’s phenomenal. I like the island—it’s such a great setting for the tournament. It’s so relaxing with a real family atmosphere. The tournament is certainly a favorite. It’s one of the Tour players’ favorites every year.

CH2: As the defending champion, do you have higher expectations this year?
CP: Of course you want to do well, but I try to treat it like it is a regular event. It is nice to know you’re coming back to where you’ve had success, but I try to play it down.

CH2: What do you feel is the strongest part of your game?
CP: My driving and my putting.

CH2: Are you still using the longer shaft in your driver?
CP: I am, yeah, 46 and a half inches. I’ve been using it for about two years now and getting the distance.

(In the 2012 PGA Championship Pettersson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on the first hole on the final day of play at the Kiawah Island Ocean Course. On his second shot, Pettersson took his club back and clipped what appeared to be a dead leaf. Officials reviewed it on instant replay but were not able to determine if he broke rule 13-4c—moving a loose impediment in a hazard—until Pettersson was on #5.)

CH2: The leaf business at last year’s PGA Championship seemed a little over the top. Do you still think about it?
CP: I broke the rule. A silly rule really. I knew I could touch the grass (on his backswing). My feet were a little bit above the ball. A leaf popped up. I never saw it. Rory played great and won the event. But it is what it is. I’m totally over it. Golf has some funny kind of weird rules. Sometimes they help you, sometimes they hurt you.

It’s unfortunate something like that happens, but there’s nothing you can really do about it.

CH2: The number of golfers playing the game has pretty much plateaued. Why do you think that is?
CP: To me, the biggest thing that’s hurt the game is the design of new courses. It takes forever to play. The holes are so far away from each other. On older courses, like Harbour Town, you come off the green and the next tee is right there. On newer courses you have to go hundreds of yards to the next tee. That adds another 45 minutes to an hour to the game when you have to do that.

CH2: You’ve played in hundreds of pro-ams. Amateurs are always seeking advice from the professional. What do you usually tell them?
CP: It’s tough to change someone’s swing in one round since it’s the way they’ve been swinging for years. The biggest thing you can change with amateurs is the way they play their shots. Get a strategy down. Play it smart. Don’t try to do anything crazy. Play to your strengths. Manage your game a little better. Ease up a little bit.

Don’t try to do too much.

CH2: You’re known for your dry sense of humor. Do you have a favorite story from one of your pro-am experiences?
CP: I don’t remember where it was, but a guy hit the ball backwards. He popped it up and it landed behind him. You don’t expect an amateur to be that great a golfer, especially when the course is under tournament conditions with people watching. But that really was funny

There are two “Arnies” who made the Heritage the great golf tournament it is. One, of course, was “Arnie” Palmer, who won the first Heritage on Thanksgiving weekend in 1969. The media (remember back then it was only print and broadcast) went nuts.

Palmer hadn’t won in over a year, so this was news. Palmer was the player who brought golf to the masses, and his win brought a little-known resort island and the Heritage to the world.

But it was the other “Arnie” who, for 27 years, was the face of the Heritage for those of us who wrote or broadcast or texted or tweeted from the media tent. Arnie worked his last tournament as media relations director in 2012. In his walker. He left us this past June. He was just coming up on his 93rd birthday.

I was one up on Arnie in a very insignificant calculation. I had covered the tournament 29 times to his working it 27. Other than that, Arnie had me and the rest of the media in spades. A highly respected and well-liked sports journalist and editor for the Syracuse Herald-Journal, he was an inductee to the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. He truly was, as tournament director Steve Wilmot said in an interview a few years ago, “the real deal.” He was also described as “ageless.”

Arnie “retired” on Hilton Head in 1984. He played tennis (not golf). Did a bang up job in his garden plot in Sea Pines, and, in 1986, got hoodwinked by the tournament director Mike Stevens into being the media relations director for “one year.” How did that work out? Well, excellent for Arnie and for us media types.

He knew everyone in the media tent by name. He seemed to treat everyone the same, whether you were from a big time media giant or a humble freelancer. He liked the fact that I lived close enough to Harbour Town that I rode my bicycle to the media tent. That opened up another coveted space in the media parking area.

The media tent is now the “Arnie Burdick Media Tent,” naming rights he might not have approved of. That’s sort of a modern concept, and Arnie still used a typewriter. He was also humble in his own way. He did not use e-mail. He wrote notes and sent them to media folks via snail mail with either story ideas or compliments—or both. I have one. It was about a story I wrote for CH2 magazine a few years ago. In part it read, “Good job on ‘Behind the Ropes’ story. Here’s another idea…” He never stopped. The media tent will miss him. Arnie Burdick really was “the real deal.”

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