How I Became A Peter Malnati Fan For Life
I was standing behind the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links on a terrific Tuesday afternoon at the 2019 RBC Heritage when one of the pros’ MLB-sponsored Titleist bag caught my eye. After the group finished their practice round, I told the golfer I liked his bag, he thanked me for the compliment, and my friendship with Peter Malnati began.
We became fast friends, even though I’m an avowed South Carolina Gamecocks fan and Peter is a Missouri Tiger (if you see him in his signature bucket hat this week, give him a hearty “M-I-Z” and you might get a “Z-O-U” in return).
And, of course, he immediately became one of my favorite golfers.
Peter finished 16th that year, and when I told my mom about the bond we had formed, she helped me track down an email address so I could write to thank him for his kindness and tell him how much I appreciated it. We couldn’t believe it when the email turned out to be Peter’s, and when he replied I became a Malnati fan for life.
Peter and I have stayed in contact via email over the years, and I get excited any time I see his name on the PGA Tour leaderboard, which has been frequent this season. He has four top-25 finishes, including a tie for fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
But even when Peter isn’t playing well, he always has a smile on his face, and seeing him at Harbour Town every year never fails to put a smile on mine.
This will be Peter’s eighth Heritage, and I plan to follow him every day that I’m not working as a standard bearer — and with any luck I’ll get to carry the standard for his group one day this year. I had that chance one year, and when I showed up on the first tee, Peter was just as happy to be paired together as I was. His reaction will stick with me forever.
Another of my favorite memories of cheering on Peter at the Heritage came that first year we met, in 2019. Peter had started his round on No. 10 and was making the turn at the famous lighthouse on No. 18, which meant I was facing a long trek on foot to get back to No. 1. Peter told the security guard I was family so I could hitch a ride to the first tee and see him hit his drive.
We had just met that week, and he was a professional golfer and I was a 12-year-old kid asking for autographs and memorabilia, but he treated me with kindness. He has also given me a ton of signed golf balls and a couple of bucket hats. But it’s the kindness that I’ll always remember.