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On TOUR with the Malnatis: Making tracks and making a difference

March 29, 2016

By Alicia Malnati

Editor’s note:  Alicia Malnati, wife of PGA TOUR winner Peter Malnati, writes a monthly column for “Together, Anything’s Possible” where she shares the charitable heart of the PGA TOUR from a TOUR wife’s perspective.

For the record, I never really thought any of this would happen. I never dreamed we’d travel the world together on the PGA TOUR. But now we do, and here’s how it all began.

When I met Peter Malnati in the fall of 2008, our senior years in college, he was no golf superstar. Instead, he was a homegrown, hard-working individual who consistently improved after being what he calls “really bad” his freshman year. I had no idea how much better than “really bad” my Matt Damon look-a-like boyfriend actually was when he became a professional golfer, but there were some good signs.

Alicia and Peter Malnati

After graduation, he won the 2009 Tennessee State Amateur, secured a small group of investors, and made plans to join the eGolf Professional Tour. Most importantly, he believed in his ability to “keep getting better” and was intentional about making that happen through regimented practice, fitness and nutrition routines. Although his mini-tour schedule and my graduate school schedule didn’t align nearly enough, we made it through 2010, his first year as a professional.

That year, he won two State Opens, one in Nebraska and one in Missouri, and had several top-10 finishes on the eGolf Tour. He won the Nebraska State Open again in 2011, and, despite not making it through Q-School for a second time, knew he was “going in the right direction.” His trend of improvement continued into 2012, but as many of you know, breaking into the Tour, and especially the PGA TOUR, is no easy task. However, Peter had a plan.

For the 2013 season, his fourth year on mini-tours, he planned to play in everything: full schedules on the eGolf and NGA Tours and all of the Monday qualifiers he could drive to. As a newly-engaged couple, the dilemma of wanting to be together more often but of also supporting a potentially life-changing opportunity was very real and was, at times, very tough.

Then the summer of 2013 happened.

In June, Peter Monday qualified into the Tour event in Wichita, KS and finished T16, one of his best at the time. Because he finished in the top 25 at that tournament, he was automatically qualified into the next event in Raleigh, NC. There he snuck into a tie for 24th place after making birdies on the final two holes on Friday and shooting under par on the weekend. His good play continued to Indiana where he gained his first top-10 finish at the United Leasing Championship.

The snowball effect was happening, a mini-tour golfer’s dream.

But after a week off, he flew to Utah and missed the cut. He also made a few attempts at Monday qualifiers but was unsuccessful. However, because of his position on the money list, he had an opportunity to play the event in Pittsburgh. There he finished T-10 and automatically qualified for the event in Springfield, MO. If he finished in the top 25 in Springfield, he would earn a spot in his hometown’s tournament, the Knoxville News Sentinel Open, the following week. Fortunately, he finished birdie-par-eagle and tied for 14th place to secure his spot in Knoxville’s field.

After nearly four years on mini-tours, gaining full status on the Tour would certainly have been a victory. To do that, he’d need to use the Knoxville tournament to move from 82nd place on the money list to the top 75. A solid performance that week would do it.

 Heading into the final hole of the tournament, he was in a four-way tie for first place. He birdied it to get to 16-under, and later I remember him telling me with tears in his eyes that “I did it.” But, he wasn’t referring to making the birdie or winning the tournament, which he had done. He was referring to delivering under pressure, to staying patient and continuing to getting better. To knowing that he could make it.

As it turns out, the win bumped him to 16th place on the money list, high enough to not only gain full status on the Tour but to springboard him, and us, all the way to the PGA TOUR.

Now that we’re travelling the PGA TOUR together, we’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible people like the Richardson family, club designer Bob Vokey, former President Bill Clinton and Ellen. We also saw Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5, and Train from private venues and travelled to five new countries. And after recovering from a less-than-stellar rookie year to win the Sanderson Farms Championship, INSIDE the PGA TOUR came to our house. Then we spent two weeks in Hawaii with the Tournament of Champions. Peter also threw out the first pitch at a Royals game in Kansas City, my hometown, and I’ve worked with the PGA Tour Wives Association on several projects. And because I’m able to work online with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, we get to experience all of these opportunities together.

Our lives have changed dramatically because of the PGA TOUR, but we’re not the only ones.

The PGA TOUR supports more than 3,000 charities, and as of 2014, had eclipsed the $2 billion dollar mark in charitable giving. In 2015 alone, the TOUR gave more $160 million, a new record, to charitable organizations. In fact, since 1994, the Sanderson Farms Championship, alone, has donated more than $11 million to Friends of Children's Hospital and other Mississippi-area charities.

I never really thought any of this would happen – the PGA TOUR, the travel, the experiences, the platform and connections to charitable giving. You rarely think that stories like these happen until they do. And now we’re in Houston for this week’s TOUR event, another opportunity to make something great happen. But, it won’t be for just us. It will be for so many.

Dr. Alicia Hatcher Malnati, or Dr. Hatch, is a program assistant with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Dr. Hatch received her PhD from the University of Missouri in Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Health Education and Promotion. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri.

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