Patrick Peterson gives golf dream to local golfer Travis Kreiter

Check out this article by ESPN Staff Writer Josh Weinfuss.


TEMPE, Ariz. -- The day that changed Travis Kreiter's life started like many others had over the last year.

Patrick Peterson wanted to golf.

Kreiter woke up one morning last spring to find a text from Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals' All-Pro cornerback, asking if he wanted to play 18 holes. It was perfect timing. Kreiter had the day off from his job at Superstition Mountain Golf Club, where Peterson was a member, and Kreiter rarely, if ever, turned down an opportunity to play with a member. He estimated he's played at least 100 of the more than 400 current members.

The plan was for just Kreiter and Peterson to play, like they had done a number of other times. With their tee-time approaching around 9 a.m., another twosome, a father-son duo, asked if they could join. The son, Kreiter said, had played professional golf before. Peterson, who doesn't like playing alone, was happy to welcome the other members into his group.

Kreiter, a former collegiate golfer, had consistently outplayed Peterson since the two struck up a friendship in the course's locker room, where Kreiter cleaned members' shoes, regularly shooting in the high 60s or low 70s. It was expected Kreiter would go low again this round, but after he missed a five-foot putt for birdie on the first hole, the possibility of Peterson finally beating him started to creep into both their minds. Kreiter then turned it on, making birdie on holes No. 2 and No. 4. After the fourth hole, the son, whom Kreiter had played with before, asked if Kreiter had ever considering playing professional golf.

Had he? There was never a more obvious answer.

"I was like, 'Yeah, it's always been a dream of mine but I've never been able to afford it on my own dime,'" Kreiter responded.

In the cart heading to the fifth hole, Peterson, who’s become an avid golfer since he picked up the game about five years ago, turned to Kreiter.

Travis Kreiter's PGA dream is something Patrick Peterson has gotten behind both emotionally and financially. Josh Weinfuss/

"He said 'The more and more I'm getting into golf, the more and more I'm looking to give back and I'm thinking about sponsoring some people, and I have you in mind,'" Kreiter recalled.

With that news, Kreiter still had to play 12 more holes.

If there was ever a time in Kreiter's career up to that point -- and maybe forever going forward -- that he had to play well, it was the rest of that round. All Kreiter did was birdie the next hole, then Nos. 7 and No. 11, putting him 6-under through 13 holes. Peterson had noticed.

He got in the cart and turned to Kreiter: "You know, you've really impressed me stepping up to the plate, talking about sponsorship and playing well," Kreiter remembered Peterson saying.

Kreiter told Peterson he was just trying to rise to the occasion.

With two holes left, Kreiter was 8-under. Peterson asked what the course record was. Kreiter quickly replied that it was 10-under. Peterson then challenged him to match it. After an errant tee shot on No. 17, Kreiter chipped in for another birdie, bringing him to 9-under. On the par-5 18th, Kreiter hit his second shot near the green, but a bad chip put his chase of tying the course record in jeopardy. Standing over a 10-foot putt for birdie, Kreiter could feel the stares.

He sunk it, finishing off his 10-under 62.

"It was a day I'll never forget," Kreiter said. "It's something I worked my whole life for and kind of given up hope on it. And one day, I stumbled into the right person doing the right thing at the right time."

Peterson signed Kreiter to a two-year contract that funds Kreiter's pursuit of being a professional golfer. It included a travel budget that will send Kreiter across the Midwest this summer for a schedule that includes the Illinois State Open, a slew of qualifiers as well as tournaments in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa, among others. The goal, Kreiter said, is to play his way into any "big event" while preparing himself for another run at the PGA Tour Q-School, which could be Kreiter's best path to a tour card.

Kreiter's deal also included apparel from Under Armour, since Peterson has a sponsorship with the apparel company, and enough of a monthly stipend to cover his bills and allow him to focus on practicing and playing every day. That was the one requirement Kreiter had if Peterson wanted to sponsor him: if Kreiter was going to do this, he was going to go all in.

He quit his job at Superstition Mountain on July 1 and committed himself to becoming a professional golfer. He quit drinking soda and eating fast food (except In-N-Out Burger), and lost 25 pounds in four months. He wakes up by 6 a.m. every day -- some days as early as 5 a.m. -- gets coffee, work out and heads to the course around 9 a.m. His routine starts with hitting range balls for about two hours, then putting for about an hour. He breaks for lunch, chips and putts some more, hits the range again and then plays a round with a coworker or two. He's usually done by dusk and in bed by 8 p.m. -- 9 p.m. at the latest.

"I don't take it for granted," Kreiter said. "I don't want to ever look back on this situation or this opportunity that's been given to me and say, 'Man, I wish I would’ve worked harder.'"

This is the opportunity Kreiter has been thinking about since he took up golf seriously at 13.

Kreiter grew up in Brimfield, Illinois, a small town of 900 people roughly 20 miles outside Peoria, Illinois. He's the oldest of three sons to Kevin and Lori Kreiter. When Kreiter reached high school, he decided golf and basketball would be his focus. When he wasn't hooping, he was golfing. He won the Illinois state title as a high school senior in 2008, which helped him secure a scholarship to Bradley University, where he played his sophomore and junior year after sitting out his freshman season due to being academically ineligible.

After his junior season, Kreiter moved to Arizona with $1,000 and the dream of either playing full time or working in the golf business.

He rented a room at a Motel 6 for $700 a month and spent his days looking for work. It was the first time he was away from home on his own. Two weeks in, with less than $300 left to his name and his nerves on high alert, he got his job at Superstition Mountain.

So when he asked Peterson to golf last year, about four years after he began at Superstition Mountain, Kretier was accustomed to nerves.

Kreiter had heard that Peterson was a member but for various reasons he had never met Peterson until Peterson came in to the locker room after a round and handed Kreiter his shoes to clean.

Kreiter was nervous but asked Peterson if he wanted to play a round some time. Peterson said yes. Their friendship began with a couple of early rounds, with Kreiter shooting a 67 and a 70. Then the two exchanged numbers. Peterson reached out, saying he didn't like playing alone, and the two became regular golfing buddies.

Their friendship has evolved, not just into a business relationship but into a mentorship, as well.

"I'm all about helping," Peterson said. "I believe he has a very, very bright future. He's been playing lights out golf so far and I just want to continue to try to show people that if you have a dream and you have something that you want to achieve, there is someone out there that is willing to give you whatever you may need to succeed."

Kreiter picks the six-time Pro Bowler's brain about everything he can, from what to eat to how to train. He also watches closely how Peterson acts among fans. There's no comparing the two in that category quite yet. Kreiter estimated he has signed five autographs. Peterson has signed thousands. But Kreiter has watched how Peterson treats those who ask for a signature or an autograph: he never says no.

"I idolize him and envy him most, the way he handles it, because I've never seen him handle anyone in a bad manner," Kreiter said. "That's what I think is the coolest part, the coolest thing about Patrick is he's just a regular guy who just happens to be one of the most famous athletes in Arizona

Kreiter has played in about 10 events since Peterson sponsored him. He's found success and experienced disappointment. He came within one shot of qualifying for the Waste Management Phoenix Open in late January. He went to Q-School and "didn't have it" the entire week. He's learned how to manage his game better and feels he's a better golfer than he has ever been. His confidence has grown with every tournament he plays.

He also knows the road that's ahead of him and knows he wouldn't be ready to start traveling on it without Peterson.

"This is something I worked for my whole life," Kreiter said. "It made me cry. He's potentially making my dreams come true by giving me an opportunity. When everything was said and done and he said yes, it was dreams that came true.

"I could not repay him ever for what he's done for me, which has been ... it's been a blessing."

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