If Maura Peters needs a pep talk, a swing thought or a putting tip, the Pleasant Valley High School junior has plenty of eyes and ears in her circle.
Her father, Ben, was a standout golfer at St. Ambrose University and has won the Quad-City Amateur a half-dozen times. Her grandfather, John, has collected a dozen city tournament titles in Muscatine and had considerable amateur success at the state level.
Her high school coach, Mike Nedelcoff, has been a member of the PGA for more than 35 years and has worked with high-level junior and collegiate talent. Butch Haverland also has provided instruction to 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 is awesome to have and I’m very lucky to have,” Peters said.
Even with all those golf influences around her, this week’s Iowa Pacesetter is just starting to immerse herself into the game.
People are also reading…
Peters vividly remembers having a plastic golf club at a young age or going to the course with her father at age 8 or 9.
It wasn’t until the past few years that she has taken a serious interest in the game.
“I went through a point where I didn’t really like golf that much,” Peters said.
Between her affinity for volleyball and her freshman golf season being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peters admitted her passion for the sport didn’t really take flight until last spring.
Now, Peters wants to see where she can go with it.
Ranked fifth this week by the Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association, Peters has a team-best scoring average of 75 strokes for 18 holes (down more than 5.5 strokes from 2021). She ranks second in the Mississippi Athletic Conference behind Bettendorf defending state champion Shannyn Vogler.
In four 18-hole meets 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. “Her playing more golf is allowing her to improve, but she’s not even close to being where she could end up. If she wants to play at the next level, at a very high level, she’ll be able to if she continues to work at it.”
Nedelcoff said he’s only taught about a half-dozen girls from this area with Peters’ natural talent.
“Fundamental-wise, she’s very, very solid,” he noted. “Athletically, she’s very gifted. However, that will only take you so far. Learning the game and all the different aspects of it, that’s the part I see the growth 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 round of 71 in the final round of the state tournament at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny.
“Getting to play on a team with all these girls made me love golf so much more,” she said. “Yes, you’re on your own on the course, but having other people help you get better every day in practice helped a lot.”
Senior Erika Holmberg, off to play at Drake University next year, has provided inspiration for Peters.
“Getting to play with Erika a lot and practice with her has shown me things she does well and things I can improve on,” Peters said. “She’s been a huge push for me, and I’ve learned a lot from her.”
Peters played in a handful of tournaments last summer, winning the Quad-Cities Junior 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 squad which is 54-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state.
“That bad round to start the season gave me some drive on what I needed to work on,” she said. “I think I’ve focused a lot more on the little things. It was a little more general last year, but this year I’ve narrowed in on some things.”
Peters worked with a trainer this past winter in Davenport to enhance her swing speed. She has concentrated more on the short game and decreased the number of three-putts.
“The longer clubs, I was really having a hard time figuring how to get those to go a certain distance or to go straight,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I’m a little bit better at controlling the club, but I still have a lot of improvements I can make.”
And while the scores have been consistent, Peters said she can easily find ways to shave another four or five strokes in each round.
“Even though the end result might have been OK, there are so many things I can do better,” she said. “The next thing I need to work on is approach shots and hitting the right shots into the green.”
She has plenty of motivation.
The Spartans have put themselves in position to capture the program’s first state championship later this month. Peters and Holmberg have sub-80 scoring averages while senior Elizabeth McVey (80.25) and sophomore Isabella Steele (86) round out the low four.
PV already has beaten defending state champion West Des Moines Valley twice this spring.
“You know great 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 on improving ourselves and we’re seeing it on the course.”
Peters is proof of that, and she has the family support.
Her grandfather, who attends about every meet, gave her some instructional golf videos for her birthday. She’ll spend time with her father on the range or putting green.
“They’re both wonderful men,” Nedelcoff said. “They’ll share things with her when they have a chance, but they don’t over-coach her. That’s not happening.”
Peters plans to ratchet up her tournament schedule this summer to get college exposure before her senior season.
At this point, she’s uncertain what school or level she’ll play at beyond high school. She just knows golf is in her future.
“I don’t want to let it go,” she said. “There is still so much more room for growth and it is something I can play for the rest of my life.”