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Joey Peterson’s perseverance, second sport proves valuable for Western golf

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With knee surgeries nixing basketball, athlete turns to another sport

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Joey Peterson’s plans for high school athletics centered on basketball. When those aspirations were dimmed by injuries, seven surgeries later he put more emphasis on golf.

As a junior last spring, the Western Alamance student participated in an uncommon manner, aided by a crutch to reach his ball before hitting a shot.

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Now in his final high school season, he makes more conventional tours around area courses as one of the top boys’ golfers in Alamance County.

“Basketball was my sport for my whole life,” Peterson said. “Just had some knee pain, it turns out it was a pretty serious knee condition.”

It’s called osteochondritis dissecans.

As a freshman, he attended The Burlington School. On the day of the first game of the basketball state championship, he suffered an injured left knee. Surgery was required, but that was just the beginning.

He already sensed larger problems might be brewing.

“I transferred back to Western to go to school with my friends because after that first surgery, it’s not going to work,” Peterson said. “My doctor told me right off the rip, it’s not really an option anymore. He had told me that (playing basketball) was not going to be a long-term thing.”

Yet the basketball bug didn’t go away. He played for a chunk of his junior season at Western.

“During one of the practices, just completely blew it again,” he said.

So he wouldn’t follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Shane Peterson had been a top player at TBS and now plays basketball collegiately at Mt. Olive.

Joey Peterson’s persistence left an impression on others.

“When you throw situation after situation at him and he maintains a positive attitude,” Western athletics director Sean Quinn said. “It’s a testament to him and to the family. He’s told he’s not going to play and he works and comes back and plays. He stayed positive and upbeat.”

The younger Peterson had basketball talent, some good elevation on shots and around the basket. Would he be better than his brother?

“I’d like to think so,” he said. “We’ll never know.”

Another form of determination kicked in.

“Just decided I was not going to let it stop me from playing golf,” Peterson said. “I had to do some convincing with my doctor to let me play on one leg. I had to get cleared by the doctor to play a sport. So I went out there and played on one leg and to wait like three months to get cleared by the USGA to play in a golf cart. Haven’t had any problems with it recently.”

The surgeries consisted of getting his leg realigned and cartilage grafts.

“I also had some underlying problems with that. Dead bone and cartilage breakoff,” he said. “It was tough, but golf really was an out for me. Just come on here, whether I was on one leg or two, I just had fun with it. Just out here enjoying it this year with my teammates.”

Warriors golf coach Mike Pennington said Peterson withstood the challenges last year and after the school filed paperwork and gained approval for him to ride in a cart during matches.

Getting through the junior golf season might have appeared to be an adventure.

“He kind of impressed me playing last year with one leg,” said Tyler Clayton, a Western teammate. “He wasn’t really balanced. It was something you don’t generally see.”

This year, Peterson, the son of Jamie and Shawn Peterson, is the only senior on this year’s Western golf team.

During a regular-season match at Stoney Creek Golf Club, Peterson shot 36 in a round that included a four-putt and a three-putt along with an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole.

The ups and downs don’t faze him.

“A lot of people tend to let the bad shots get to them,” he said “That’s not why I’m out there. I’m out here to have fun.”

Peterson had a strong season, placing fifth overall in the Central 3-A Conference. He won a nine-hole league match and finished second in another. He has qualified for next week’s Class 3-A Mideast Regional.

“I’ve always played my whole life,” he said. “It was nothing really serious until basketball wasn’t in the picture anymore. Then I started taking it a little more serious, got decent at it. Now it’s more fun. Everything is more fun when you’re better at it. I’m really enjoying it, so we’re going to stick with it.”

Peterson, 18, is lining up a career connected to golf. He takes horticulture courses at Alamance Community College and he’ll attend college at Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina, studying turf grass.

Already, he works part-time in maintenance at Stoney Creek Golf Club.

“After basketball went down the drain, it was ‘What am I going to do for college?’ That was the plan to play basketball in college,” he said. “Toured a few schools, saw this thing and started working out here. Started to really enjoy the maintenance aspect of golf.”

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