Water slides can wait, Rocky golfer Peterson has job to do at nationals

2014-05-17T20:00:00Z 2014-05-17T23:50:03Z Water slides can wait, Rocky golfer Peterson has job to do at nationalsBy BILL BIGHAUS bbighaus@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Katy Peterson said her dream job is to be a “water slide tester.”

“That might be a little unrealistic,” the freshly-minted Rocky Mountain College graduate quickly noted with a laugh.

Peterson, who is a 22-year-old senior from Glendive, will actually be living out another one of her dreams next week — and looking to make Rocky proud — when the No. 15-ranked Battlin’ Bears compete at the 20th NAIA women’s golf championships in Lincoln, Neb.

“I think this is the most excited I’ve ever been,” she said before a recent practice at Peter Yegen Golf Club. “I get to go to Nebraska with five of the best teammates a girl could ask for.

“We get to play a great golf course, and hopefully we play well. Finishing in the top five would be icing on the cake. It’s just been such a great four years here.”

Peterson, who helped lead Rocky to the regular-season Frontier Conference crown this season and a runner-up finish at the conference tournament, will tee off with her teammates at the 72-hole national competition on Tuesday afternoon at Wilderness Ridge Golf Club in Lincoln.

The Bears, who received an at-large berth to the 27-team event, are appearing at nationals for the first time since 2012, but have made 14 trips in the past 16 years.

“I really expect us to go out and do big things,” said the long-hitting Peterson, who will be cheered on by her parents, Walter and Sue of Glendive, at nationals. “We’ve already shot the second-lowest score in the nation this year — 290.

“That was awesome, so hopefully we can go to nationals and beat that and compete for a national championship. That would be the dream for seniors … to go out winning the national championship.”

Peterson, who tied for second individually at the recent Frontier tourney at Larchmont Golf Course in Missoula, ranks 10th nationally in the NAIA with her 77.5 scoring average. That includes a low round of 70.

She will be joined at nationals by teammates Kyla Clancy, McKenzie Webinger, Margo Salsbery, Allie Sauvageau and Chere Anderson. Clancy, a sophomore from Park City, is ninth nationally in the NAIA with her 76.8 scoring average.

Peterson, Sauvageau and Anderson were on Rocky’s 2012 national tournament team.

“A top five would be a great finish for us,” second-year Rocky coach Aaron Pohle said. “We’re going to have to play really, really well to do that … but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that is a possibility for us.”

Rocky’s 290 score, which was shot last fall in Helena, is a school and conference record.

Peterson’s career accomplishments include being a three-time first-team all-conference player for the Bears. She was the freshman of the year in the Frontier at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.

“Going to the biggest tournament of your sport as a senior is one of the coolest experiences you can ever have,” Pohle said. “It’s a great way to end your career.”

He also said the par-72, 5,978-yard Lincoln course “sets up very well” for Peterson.

“Off the tee she hits the ball so far and can take advantage of so many par-4s and par-5s,” Pohle said. “Having short irons in (to the green) when other players are having longer irons is a huge advantage.”

Peterson is capable of drives of 300-plus yards.

“When she gets a hold of one, she can get it out there with the best of them,” Pohle said.

In preparation for nationals, Peterson said she has been concentrating on chipping, putting and hitting out of the thick rough, which will likely come into play at the short Lincoln course.

Peterson’s mother, Sue, is the reigning back-to-back champion in the Montana State Women’s Golf Association Senior Amateur. Katy, who tied for second at the State Amateur in 2011, said she gets her competitive spirit from her mother.

“We are constantly at each other’s throats when we’re on the golf course,” the younger Peterson said, laughing. “We’re trying to outdrive each other, see who has less putts. It’s just always a competition.”

Peterson said her parents had her out in a golf cart when she was a week old — and she is appreciative of all their support over the years.

“One thing I can definitely thank my parents for is buying me everything I’ve ever needed to succeed in this sport,” she said. “I have top-of-the-line clubs, and I’m always in cute golf outfits.”

These days, Peterson, who majored in communication studies and minored in business management at Rocky and also landed on the Frontier’s all-academic team in golf, will soon be looking to land a fulltime job and paycheck.

By the way, is there really such a thing as a water slide tester?

Yes, according to Peterson.

“Hotel companies pay you to test out their pools and water slides, then blog about how impressive and fun they are,” she said, grinning.

While not nearly as enticing as a waterpark, Peterson said she will most likely wind up pursuing a career in golf or another sports-related job, possibly as a journalist.

“Sports have been a huge part of my life for a really long time, so why not do something you are passionate about,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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