If Maura Peters needs a pep talk, swing thought or putting advice, the Pleasant Valley High School junior has plenty of eyes and ears in his circle.
His father, Ben, was an outstanding golfer at St. Ambrose University and won the Quad-City Amateur half a dozen times. His grandfather, John, won a dozen municipal tournament titles at Muscatine and enjoyed considerable amateur success at the state level.
His high school coach, Mike Nedelcoff, has been a PGA member for more than 35 years and has worked with high-level junior and collegiate talent. Butch Haverland also taught Peters, another teaching professional who has been around the Quad-Cities for most of the past 30 years.
“There are so many tools at my disposal, it’s great to have and I’m very lucky to have,” Peters said.
Even with all of those golf influences around her, this week’s Iowa Pacesetter is just starting to immerse herself in the game.
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Peters vividly remembers having a plastic golf club at a young age or going to the course with his dad when he was 8 or 9 years old.
It’s only been a few years since she took a serious interest in the game.
“I went through a time where I didn’t really like golf,” Peters said.
Between his affinity for volleyball and the cancellation of his first golf season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peters admitted that his passion for the sport only really took off last spring.
Now Peters wants to see where she can go with this.
Ranked fifth this week by the Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association, Peters has a team-best average of 75 strokes for 18 holes (down more than 5.5 strokes from 2021). She ranks second in the Mississippi Athletic Conference behind defending Bettendorf state champion Shannyn Vogler.
In four 18-hole encounters this season, Peters has recorded scores of 73, 74, 78 and 78.
“She’s an athlete and she’s learning the game now,” Nedelcoff said. “The fact that she’s playing more golf allows her to improve, but she’s not even close to where she could end up. If she wants to play at the next level, at a very high level, she can do it if she keeps working on it.”
Nedelcoff said he only taught half a dozen girls from that area with Peters’ natural talent.
“On a fundamental level, she’s very, very solid,” he noted. “Athletically, she is very gifted. However, this will only get you so far. Learning the game and all the different aspects of it is the part that I see growing every week.
“She has a very high ceiling.”
Peters was the No. 2 player on the Spartans Class 4A state runner-up team a year ago. She had a career-low 71 in the final round of the state tournament at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny.
“Playing on a team with all these girls made me love golf even more,” she said. “Yes, you are alone on the course, but having other people to help you improve every day in training has helped a lot.”
Senior Erika Holmberg, leaving to play at Drake University next year, inspired Peters.
“Playing a lot with Erika and training with her has shown me things she does well and things I can improve on,” Peters said. “She was a huge push for me, and I learned a lot from her.”
Peters played in a handful of tournaments last summer, winning the Junior Quad-Cities at Short Hills Country Club with a 78.
Outside of a 44 in the season-opening event at Valley Oaks in Clinton, Peters has been steady for a PV team that’s 54-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state.
“That bad turn at the start of the season gave me a boost on what I needed to work on,” she said. “I think I focused a lot more on the little things. It was a bit more general last year, but this year I tightened up some things.
Peters worked with a trainer last winter in Davenport to improve his swing speed. She focused more on the short game and decreased the number of putts.
“The longer clubs, I was really struggling to figure out how to get them to go a certain distance or go straight,” she said. “I have become much stronger and in control of the club a bit better, but I still have a lot of improvement to make.”
And while the scores were consistent, Peters said she could easily find ways to shave four or five more strokes each round.
“Even though the end result could have been okay, there’s so much I can do better,” she said. “The next thing I need to work on is approach shots and good shots into the green.”
She has a lot of motivation.
The Spartans are in position to win the program’s first state championship later this month. Peters and Holmberg have averages below 80 while senior Elizabeth McVey (80.25) and second Isabella Steele (86) round out the bottom four.
PV has already beaten the defending West Des Moines Valley State Champion twice this spring.
“You know big things are going to happen when you have the same six kids coming back from last year and everyone is making an active effort to get stronger, better and faster,” Holmberg said. “We keep working to improve and we see that on the course.”
Peters is proof of that, and she has the support of her family.
His grandfather, who attends almost every competition, gave him instructional golf videos for his birthday. She will spend time with her father on the range or on the putting green.
“They are both wonderful men,” Nedelcoff said. “They’ll share things with her when they get the chance, but they won’t coach her too much. That’s not the case.”
Peters plans to increase his tournament schedule this summer to gain recognition in college ahead of his senior season.
At this point, she doesn’t know what school or level she will play in beyond high school. She just knows golf is in her future.
“I don’t want to give up,” she said. “There’s still so much room for growth and it’s something I can play for the rest of my life.”