Peterson Makes Her Senior Debut a Success

August 18, 2020

By Mike Fermoyle (

WAYZATA -- Adele Peterson was a golfing prodigy. She finished second in the Oklahoma Women's Amateur when she was 15 years old. She started college at SMU in 1982, then switched two years later to the University of Tulsa, which at the time was to women's college golf what 16-time national champion Houston was to men's college golf. UT had won three national titles in the preceding four years, and the Golden Hurricane finished second at the 1985 NCAA tournament, when Peterson was a junior. She finished ninth individually that year, and was a first-team All-American as a senior in 1986. (She was inducted into the UT Hall of Fame in 1998, under her maiden name, Adele Lukken.) 

Shortly after graduating that spring with a degree in marketing, she turned professional, and she played on the LPGA Tour for seven years. She didn't have a lot of high finishes, but she tied for 15th at the 1991 U.S. Open. Although she didn't know it, she was pregnant with the second of her four children at the time. She played a limited schedule in 1992 and '93.

"It was tough with two kids," she remembers, "and it would have been impossible with three."

So Peterson, who is married to Paul Peterson, the PING sales representative for this area, retired from the women's pro tour -- and from competitive golf altogether -- after she had her third child in 1994.

But this year, after more than a quarter of a century away from competition, she decided to give tournament golf another shot. She entered the MGA Women's Amateur in July, just to get a feel for competing again (she tied for 38th against "the younger girls") and to prepare for her debut as a senior, which she made this week.

It turned out to be a trophy-raising success, as she won the MGA Women's Senior Amateur Championship by four shots at Woodhill Country Club. 

Having opened with an 80 on Monday, Peterson played the first 13 holes in even par on Tuesday, and went on to shoot a 4-over 76, for winning total of 156.

Betsy Aldrich, who won her third consecutive State Women's Match Play title earlier this summer, made things interesting. She birdied three of her first six holes to pull even with Peterson, then hit a rough patch in the middle of the round, but rallied again on the back nine before being undone by a triple-bogey 7 at the 17th hole. 

She finished with a 78 and a 36-hole tab of 160, which was good for second place. 

"The weather was perfect, and the course is in great shape," Aldrich said. "It was really fun. But if you make a mistake out here, Donald Ross (the course designer) will get you." 

Claudia Pilot, a two-time Women's Senior Am champ, has cut back on her tournament schedule this summer, because she's moving. Nevertheless, she played well from tee to green at Woodhill and was tied with Peterson for the lead after Day 1. Her putting was less than stellar. She left a lot of putts short, including some 3- and 4-footers. But she made a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole on Tuesday to shoot 82. That gave her a two-day total of 162 and a third-place finish, one ahead of Cathy White, who also closed with an 82 to claim fourth.

"I finally got a putt to the hole," Pilot marvelled as she walked off the 18th green, "and it went in. It's amazing how that works. Maybe I should have tried that before the last hole of the tournament." 

Brenda Williams, who won the Senior Am in 2015, shot 84 and was fifth with a 165.

Trish Olsen was sixth with a 167 (85-82), and Lisa Lawry seventh at 169 (85-84).

As she held the trophy ("It's kind of heavy"), Peterson said that she has always felt roughly the same level of nervousness, whether she was playing in an amateur tournament or an LPGA Tour event.

"You're always a little nervous because you don't know how you're going to play," she explained. "That's the way I was today, and it was the same when I was playing in professional tournaments. You hope you're going to play well, but you never really know what to expect." 

Of course, it always helps to calm the nerves when you can birdie the first hole (337 yards, par 4), as Peterson did on Tuesday. She hit a gap wedge to 3 feet and converted the putt. Her only bogey on the front nine came at the 362-yard, par-4 fourth hole, but the long-hitting 57-year-old (Peterson averages about 240 yards off the tee) hit a 19-degree rescue second shot to 12 feet at the 434-yard, par-5 sixth hole. She left the eagle putt just short, but tapped in to match the birdie that Aldrich had made a few minutes earlier. (Peterson was in the last threesome, with Pilot and Williams. Aldrich was one group ahead, with White and Lawry.)  

Aldrich had also birdied the par-3 second (131 yards) and the fourth. So she was level with Peterson through 24 holes, both of them 9 over for the tournament.

They both bogeyed the seventh (326 yards, par 4). But Aldrich doubled the 342-yard, par-4 ninth, and she didn't get off to a great start on the back nine. She bogeyed the 10th (308 yards, par 4), the 12th (479, par 5) and the 13th (150, par 3).

Meanwhile, Peterson was running off six consecutive pars, from the par-3 eighth (185 yards) to the par-3 13th -- and suddenly, she had a five-stroke lead.

But Aldrich wasn't done yet. The 53-year-old former college hockey player (Dartmouth) stiffed a wedge shot at the par-5 14th (446 yards) and made one of the few birdies on that hole this week. Peterson had a nasty 25-foot left-to-right-breaking putt, and she nearly made it. But she missed the next one, too, from 3 feet.

The 15th hole at Woodhill is a 378-yard par 4, and it was the hardest hole on the course for the senior women. Both Aldrich and Peterson bogeyed it.

Aldrich then parred the 155-yard, par-3 16th.

Peterson spent some time on the 16th tee debating whether to hit a 7 iron, as she had from the upper tee on Monday, or a 6 iron, because the lower tee was being used for Tuesday's final round. She pulled the 7 initially, then changed her mind and went with the 6. It was too much club, barely, but enough to cause a problem.

"A hole plays shorter from an elevated tee," she explained. "So it has to play longer from a lower tee. That's why I used the 6."

Her shot landed 12 feet left of the pin, which was near the back of the green, and it bounced into a wicked lie 4 feet into the rough. 

"I could barely see the ball," she winced, "and I was standing right above it."

Peterson's chip shot scooted across the green and off into the rough in front of it. Her second chip finished well short of the cup, and she two-putted from there for a double-bogey 5.

That reduced her advantage over Aldrich to a single stroke. But up ahead, Aldrich was in trouble. She had dumped her second shot at the par-4 17th (344 yards) into the front bunker, roughly 80 feet from the pin, and she caught the ball in the eye with her blast from there. It sailed over the green, almost to the 15th tee, leaving her with a 70-yard shot -- with a level-10 degree of difficulty -- back to the green.

"I hit a super shot from there," she said. "I thought it was perfect, but it caught a branch on the last tree between the green and me, and it dropped down into a terrible spot."

The ball was within 3 or 4 inches of a tree, which meant that Aldrich had to assume a kind of croquet stance, facing forward, not sideways, and swing at a 90-degree angle to her body. And she had to get the ball up quickly enough to clear two concrete walls. It was another level-10 shot, but she pulled this one off, and managed to get the ball to the fringe at the back of the green. But the damage was done. 

She two-putted for a 7.

Peterson made a pair of routine pars at 17 and 18, and Aldrich also parred the 18th. 

"I told you (at the Women's Match Play tournament) that I like match play better than stroke play," she pointed out, laughing a little bit ruefully, "and my reason for that is that I tend to have one really bad hole in every round. Do you see what I mean? I had a 7 in the Match Play final (on the par-5 14th at Pebble Creek). I had a 7 on the seventh hole here yesterday. And I had a 7 on the 17th today."

Although she didn't win, Aldrich did put herself in a strong position to claim the 2020 MGA Senior Women's Player of the Year Award. She got 100 points for second this week and has 200 points for the season. The player closest to her in the standings is Peterson, with 125.  

Last year, Aldrich finished second to Leigh Klasse on the Senior Women's points list. Klasse, who lost to Aldrich in the final of the Women's Senior Match Play in June, had her left knee replaced in July and is out for the season as a result.  

MGA Women's Senior Amateur Championship

At Woodhill Country Club

5,722 yards, par 72


First-round results

Championship Flight

1. Adele Peterson, Bearpath G&CC          80-76--156

2. Betsy Aldrich, Woodhill CC                    82-78--160

3. Claudia Pilot, Grand View Lodge           80-82--162

4. Cathy White, Royal GC                          81-82--163

5. Brenda Williams, Windsong Farm          81-84--165

6. Trish Olsen, Forest Hills GC                   85-82--167

7. Lisa Lawry, Forest Hills GC                     85-84--189

8. Barb Miller, Dellwood CC                         87-86--173

9. Jackie Santopietro, Monticello GC           93-83--176

10. Terry Henschel, Valleywood GC            87-91--178

First Flight 

1. Colleen Boerboom, Minnewaska GC          87-85--172

2. Cherie Riesenberg, Minneapolis GC          84-89--173

3. Sheryl Raithel, Keller GC                            85-89--174

Second Flight

1. Ede Rice, Woodhill GC                               90-88--178

2. Linda Holzemer, Hastings GC                     89-91--180

3. Mary Jackley, Woodhill CC                          91-96--187

Third Flight 

1. Mary Butkovich, Forest Hills GC                  93-94--187

Fourth Flight   

1. Doreen Eddy, Highland National GC            96-98--194

Fifth Flight

1. Mary Klis, Wapecada GC                            105-98--203

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