Peter Malnati shows rare vulnerability soaking in second PGA Tour win: ‘I lost it before I hit my last shot’

0
3

Peter Malnati has played roughly 770 rounds on the PGA Tour. Exactly two of those ended triumphantly.
Malnati openly wept in an interview following his two-shot win at the 2024 Valspar Championship on Sunday, his second victory in a 10-year career on Tour.
Objectively, Malnati a mediocre to poor professional golfer — simply well below average compared to his peers. For him to win this golf tournament — not only over Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Sam Burns but also over Mackenzie Hughes, Billy Horschel, Kevin Streelman and Stewart Cink — was a nearly miraculous achievement.
NBC
And that is exactly how Malnati viewed it.
“That moment of winning a tournament and having your family come out on the green and the big hugs and all that, that’s something that I’ve seen other families have, and that has been my dream,” he said after the round.
“There’s been a lot of stretches of golf in the last nine years when I wondered if I would ever have that experience. I’m at peace with who I am and the way I live and the work that I put into this. If I had never had the moment I had today, I would have been completely fine.
“But, man, was that special. That was so special. It felt amazing. It was really validating for just all the hard work, all the times I’ve gotten on that plane and flown away from my family when they have stayed home. It was all preparing for that moment. So, to get that second PGA Tour win, to have it be here at the Valspar Championship, I just … it’s sinking in now, but it still feels completely surreal.”
It would be difficult (perhaps impossible) to overstate how much of a long shot Malnati is to win any PGA Tour event he enters. That he was 350-1 on Thursday beginning a non-signature event tells part of the story.
His statistics over the last decade prove he has played consistently worse than an average golfer on the PGA Tour. Not consistently worse than Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, consistently worse than Ben Martin and Matt Wallace. (0.00 strokes gained is Tour average.)
Data Golf
“Playing on the PGA Tour was just a dream,” Malnati said. “It wasn’t even a realistic goal. I was a very mediocre college player at a very mediocre college. Great college [Missouri], mediocre golf program, whatever. So, I was still that kid. I would go out to practice and every 6-footer at the end of my practice session was to win the tournament. And even at that point in my life, I imagined that moment when I would be married to the love of my life and she would come running out and we would have our family. That’s something that I wanted.
“To have that entire dream come to life and to — I looked over and saw — I didn’t see my family. I can’t remember the exact order because my brain was spinning, but I don’t think I saw ’em until after I hit the first putt, but I definitely saw ’em before I tapped in. And I was — man, I lost it before I hit my last shot of the tournament, for sure, but luckily it was literally 2 inches from the hole. But, yeah, that moment’s pretty amazing.”
At age 36, Malnati now gets to play in his first Masters. His prior PGA Tour win came in a 2015 fall event, and he was not extended an invite to play in the 2016 Masters. He was so surprised by the set of circumstances that led to all of this that he didn’t know when the Masters starts (two weeks from Thursday).
“Wow. That’s pretty cool. … Just to reiterate, that’s amazing. I’m already thankful for that opportunity. I can’t wait,” he said. “But I will come back to this, and I mean it. You know, I remember playing on the then Nationwide now Korn Ferry Tour in 2015. Every single event out there felt like a major to me, every single event that I’ve played on the PGA Tour, ever. …
“I’ve never teed it up in a Tour event and not felt, ‘Wow, this is, like, I’m nervous, and this is important.’ And 90% of us on Tour are that way. … I may feel something special when I get on the grounds at Augusta [National], and I hope I do, but I’m going to feel just as amped up on the first tee next week in Houston because this — playing golf on the PGA Tour for 90% of us out here — is (a) really, really hard, and (b) the realization of a dream.
“So, I’m not going to put too much emphasis on the fact that, yeah, I’m in the Masters. … That is cool, don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about it, and I cannot wait to set foot on the grounds. That will be amazing. But I think more of what has sunk in to me is, this guarantees me that — this is my 10th season on the PGA Tour — it’s guarantees me that I’m going to have 12, at least. Pretty cool. …
“It’s just always my dream to never get a real job, actually, believe it or not. I never knew what it was going to look like. When I was a kid, I watched my dad work really hard, and it didn’t look like fun. So I was like, I want to play baseball for a living or tennis or something, and then it turned into golf, and now I know for sure I’m going to have a job on the best tour in the world for two-and-a-half more years.”
The win qualifies Malnati into the remaining PGA Tour signature events for 2024 and guarantees his card through the end of 2026. That’s a big deal for somebody who has never finished in the top 50 in the FedEx Cup.
The bigger story is how Malnati was able to truly appreciate the moment on Sunday in a way he could not have appreciated it nine years ago when he won the Sanderson Farms Championship. He was in his 20s then with no kids and little perspective on what all of this was going to look like. Now? He knew in the moment what a big deal this was and that it’s probably never going to happen again.
There is beauty in being able to appreciate a moment like this as it is happening. That is difficult to do in life. Most of us do our jobs and move on to the next thing. Rarely do we stop and drink it all in like Malnati did Sunday at Innisbrook. Rarely do we understand as things like this are happening that they are both meaningful and incredibly unlikely. Especially for professional athletes, who must have outrageous belief in themselves just to survive in their respective leagues.
That Malnati was able to set that aside just after winning and embrace the vulnerability that he did is as extraordinary as it was unusual. As wonderful as it was appreciated. As consequential as it was beautiful.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here