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A quick 9 with Juju Peterson

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I don’t Snap. I want to be clear on that, before we proceed. Some social media is best left to the young. I Yick-Yacked for a time, but it faded, as did my good looks. Onward, then. If you hang around social media long enough (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and pay attention to what the younger golfing set is doing, you stumble across people like girlsgotgame365 and georgegankasgolf.

Everything is changing around us, quickly. Golf instruction is live on the web 3.0; introductions to famous people prior to fame finding them are accessible. It’s like an ace (which I’ve never had) in that sometimes, they go in off a tree, a cart path, or a playing partner’s shin. This brings us to Jessica “Juju” Peterson (jujupetersongolf on Instagram), a young golfer in Texas. I’ve followed her progress for over a year, and what I’ve read and watched has heartened me. As she advances as a competitive golfer, she matures as a human. Juju Peterson’s Instagram account balances the path to adulthood on both golf and life’s terms. She seems to be in no rush for either, which might be the best lesson you learn.

If you don’t do the tango social media, understand this: it can be a heartless place. Emboldened by anonymity, trolls take shots at hundreds of targets each day. For whatever soul-less reason they conjure, they often leave behind a trail of tears and injured psyches. Juju Peterson’s Instagram account caters to all ages, and it’s my guess that those 9K+ followers run the entire age gamut.

Too often our golf professionals announce that so-and-so will doubtless be the next great touring professional, major champion, etc. This is done, I say cynically, to further the teaching pro’s career. Very well, in order to further my writing career, I hereby decree that Juju Peterson just might be the next great neighbor, roommate, friend, human being. Her candor is enviable, her enthusiasm is infectious. So that you know, her parents are with her, each and every step. With pleasure, a quick nine questions with Juju Peterson.


1. Golf is a family affair in the Peterson household, it seems. Tell us about how it all began, and what family golf brings to you. 

It began with my father. I thought it was so cool that my dad could do trick shots and hit it over 400 yards. When I met George Strait and David Feherty at my dad’s final celebrity fundraising event, I knew that I wanted to play golf like my dad!

2. Dad is the coach, and daughter is the student. What kind of a dynamic does that present? 

A: It’s amazing to be honest. I know that sometimes dads and daughters can butt heads when there is coaching involved, but our bond is special and unique. Dad adopted me when he married my mom and that bond has made us more like BFFs than “father and daughter” when we are working on my swing.

3. As of early summer, 2019, what are your goals with golf? Is it recreational? Competitive? Are you hoping to compete in high school, college, and beyond?

A: I’d like to answer this backward. Golf in our life has become competitive, but dad does a great job of allowing me to practice in a recreational way. My #1 goal in golf is to enjoy the game. My short term goal is to work hard this summer to prepare for the US Kids World Championships in August. My long term goal is to sharpen all aspects of my game so I can hopefully someday have a chance to play against the best in the world. First as a junior, then hopefully in college and beyond onto the LPGA Tour.

4. My Twitter account is just over 2K followers, and my Instagram is below 1K, so the notion of an audience of over 9K followers is quite unknown to me. You’re reaching a lot of people with each video, each photo, each paragraph. What does that mean to you?

A: Honestly, I am smiling as I answer this question. We had no idea when dad started this page that I would have so much support and love. As a young girl who is about to go into middle school, life is sometimes tougher to navigate. Seeing the overwhelming support that I have from virtual strangers all over the world really makes me feel so lucky and so grateful.  We have had so many heartfelt messages sent to us from people who say that my page has helped their golf game, helped their mentality or just helped them feel better when they are a little down. One of the most wonderful and surprising things that has happened so far was a girl from Colorado who was in 8th grade (I was in 5th grade), who asked if she could write her final term paper about me. I was speechless! To think that an older girl was inspired by what I am doing…just meant so much to me. We have tried to make our page like a big Instagram family and I hope people can sense that as they follow along on this journey with us!

5. How have your fellow golfers, your followers, reached out to you in a positive way? I imagine that help is a 2-way street, if social media is done properly.

A: To extend my answer from the previous question, I recently posted a video about how I dealt with a grown man who started bullying me on my page. Within an hour nor so, we had multiple people reach out to us and say that the video really hit home with them and that it was something they really needed to hear. To know that I can potentially help a few people with their personal journey is truly wonderful 🙂

6. With the good, comes the bad. You’ve dealt with some negative commentary, and you created a 3-part video post to put your reaction, thoughts, and hopes out in the public eye and ear. Tell us about dealing with the haters.

A: So as you might have noticed, my swing is quite different. The swing I used is the swing that my dad created in 2002. I asked to switch to this from a traditional swing about two years ago. I knew that once I did, there was a good possibility that there would be some hate thrown my way. I didn’t care though! I know how amazing it has worked for dad and if something works better, then why wouldn’t I do it as well.  I think my parents have done a wonderful job of helping me prepare for bullies in life I’ve always been a foot taller than everyone in my class, I swing the club differently, I’m not super skinny and that’s OK. We can’t let bullies or negative people influence how we feel about ourselves. It’s too important to be happy in life and I try to remember that every day!

7. What are you working on in your golf these days? How do you stay focused on the next step in golf, whatever it may be?

A: Currently we are working on fine-tuning. Dad and I are very happy with where my swing is after years of really shaping it. Now I am trying to learn to breathe…focus…take enough time in preparing each shot. I am behind (experience-wise) in the tournament world as I have only played 10 tournaments. I am fortunate that I won the final 6 events of the U.S. Kids Dallas chapter which qualified me for the World Championships where dad can caddie for me. With that being said, we are going to move up to bigger, national events next year where he will not be able to caddie for me. There will be some hiccups as I go through this process of doing every aspect by myself, but I am excited for the challenge and the learning that comes with these challenges!

8. If someone asked for your three keys to living your best life, just three, how would you answer them? (this is fun, because you might look back on it in five years and agree with yourself, or see that things have changed.)

A: 1. Have fun and laugh. 2. Play golf (or any sport)..hehe. 3. Be respectful to everyone!

9. What question hasn’t been asked, that you would like to answer? Ask it and answer it, please.

Q: What’s your favorite non-golf related thing to do?

A: Number 1 would be making crafts! I love perler beads, learning to paint like Bob Ross, creating rainbow loom bracelets and drawing! I love to be silly with my 5-year-old baby sister Brooke! She is awesome and my best friend! Her heart is filled with nothing but love, and it’s so precious!

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chris Herrbach

    Jul 3, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Absolutely great piece in an amazing young golfer. I am happy to call Juju and Brad good friends. Have spent many evenings hitting golf balls with these two. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, she is a generational talent.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Steve recaps his match with the 2nd assistant and Knudson’s golf weekend

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Steve recaps his match against the 2nd assistant and if he won or lost. Knudson gets asked about a guys golf weekend and if his back will hold up. Knudson tosses his brother under the bus.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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19th Hole

5 men who need to win this week’s Open Championship for their season to be viewed as a success

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The year’s final major championship is upon us, with 156 players ready to battle it out at Royal Portrush for the Claret Jug. The oldest tournament in the sport presents the last opportunity for players to achieve major glory for nine months, and while some players will look back at this year’s majors and view them as a success, others will see them as a missed opportunity.

Here are five players who will tee it up at The Open, needing a win to transform their season, and in doing so, their career.

Adam Scott

Adam Scott has looked revived in 2019 with four top-10 finishes, including a T7 at the U.S. Open and a T8 at the PGA Championship. The Australian hasn’t won since 2016, and at 39-years-old, Scott knows better than anyone that the final narrative over his career comes down to whether or not he can add to his lone major championship victory he achieved at the 2013 Masters.

Speaking following his final round at Pebble Beach last month, Scott stated

“I’m angry; I want to win one of these so badly. I play so much consistent golf. But that’s kind of annoying; I’d almost rather miss every cut and win one tournament for the year if that win was a major.” 

A gut-wrenching finish cost Scott the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham and St. Annes seven years ago, and the 39-year-old has held at least a share of the back-nine lead on Sunday on three occasions at the event since 2012. The Australian’s statement following the U.S. Open says it all; a successful 2019 depends on whether or not he can finally put his Open Championship demons to bed.

Dustin Johnson

With a win in Mexico earlier this year, Dustin Johnson has now made it 11 straight seasons with at least one victory on the PGA Tour. However, Johnson continues to be judged, rightly or wrongly, on his struggles to capture major championships. The 35-year-old remains on one major victory for his career, which is a hugely disappointing total for a player of his talent.

Should the American remain stuck on one major for another nine months following this week’s event, it’s hard to imagine the 35-year-old feeling satisfied. Johnson came to Pebble Beach last month as the prohibitive favorite and failed to fire, but it’s what occurred at the PGA Championship which will leave a sour taste. With Brooks Koepka feeling the heat, Johnson had the opportunity to step up and reverse his major championship fortune, but two bogeys in his final three holes just added to his ‘nearly man’ tag at the most significant events.

A win in Northern Ireland removes both the ‘nearly man’ and ‘one major wonder’ tags, and turns his least successful season, victory wise, into one of his best.

Rory McIlroy

Whatever happens this week at Royal Portrush, Rory McIlroy’s season has been impressive, but it’s missing something big. That something is a win at a major championship, and it’s been missing since 2014. To avoid a five-year drought at the majors, McIlroy must win the 148th Open Championship at home, and with it, claim the greatest victory of his career.

Speaking prior to this week’s tournament, McIlroy stated

“I want to win for me. It’s not about trying to do something in front of friends and family.”

The home-town hero is currently in the midst of one of the greatest ball-striking seasons of all time. But without a win at a major to show for it, there’s undoubtedly going to be frustration and regret in the aftermath. On the flip side, should the Ulsterman triumph this week then it would likely eclipse his double major season success of 2014, and according to the man himself, it would also eclipse anything that he could ever go on to achieve in the game thereafter.

Rickie Fowler

Without getting his hands on a major, the narrative behind Rickie Fowler is not going to change. ‘The best player without a major’ tag has been there for a while now with Fowler – who hasn’t been close to shaking it off in 2019. Victory at the Phoenix Open back in February snapped a 24-month streak without a win on the PGA Tour, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone considering the 30-year-old’s season a success without him finally getting the monkey off his back and entering the winner’s circle at a major.

Justin Rose

Justin Rose turns 39-years-old this year, and each season from now to the house, he will be judged on his success at the majors. With  wins at the U.S. Open and Olympics already achieved in his career, a successful season for the Englishman now depends on whether he can become a multiple major champion.

Talking ahead of his bid to win his first Open Championship, Rose said

“People don’t come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you won the FedEx!’. It’s the US Open, the Olympic gold, the Ryder Cup. I’m 40 next year and yes, the clock is ticking.

I’ve had three top threes in the majors in the last three seasons, with two seconds, so I know I’m right there doing the right things. It’s just a case of making it happen again, because the chances won’t keep coming forever.”

Rose’s sense of urgency may stem from tough losses at the 2017 Masters, 2018 Open Championship and more recently at the 2019 U.S. Open. In Rose’s favor is that the average age of winners of The Open since 2011 is almost five years higher than the average age of those who won the Masters, and over eight years older than those who won the U.S. Open. To elevate his 2019 to elite levels, Rose is relying on victory at Royal Portrush.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 2: Pitching

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As I wrote two weeks ago, I consider there to be five basic elements to “scoring range performance”, and I dove into the full swing shorts irons and wedges last week. This week I’m going to address “pitching,” which I define as those shots with your wedges that require much less than a full swing. In my opinion, this is the most difficult part of golf to master, but the good news is that it is within reach of every golfer, as physical strength is pretty much neutralized in this aspect of the game.

Before I get into this, however, please understand that I am writing a weekly article here, and do not for a minute think that I can deliver to you the same level of insight and depth that you can get from any of the great books on the short game that are available. There are some genuine “gurus” out there who have made a living out of writing books and sharing their expertise—Dave Pelz, Stan Utley, et al. One of my favorites from a long time ago is Tom Watson’s “Getting Up and Down.” The point is, if you are committed to improving this part of your game, it will take much more than a few hundred words from a post of mine to get you there.

I will also suggest that there are no short cuts to an effective short game. I know of no other way to become a deadly chipper and pitcher of the ball than to invest the time to learn a sound technique and develop the touch skills that allow you to hits an endless variety of shots of different trajectories, distances and spin rates. As the old saying goes: “If it were easy everyone would do it.” In my opinion, it is mostly short game skills that separate good players from average, and great ones from good. Those greenside magicians we see on TV every week didn’t get there by spending minimal time learning and practicing these shots.

So, with that “disclaimer” set forth, I will share my thoughts on the basic elements of good pitching technique, as I see it.

As with any golf shot, a sound and proper set up is crucial to hitting great pitch shots
consistently. I believe great pitch shots are initiated by a slightly open stance, which allows you
to clear your body through impact and sets up the proper swing path, as I’ll explain later.

Your weight distribution should be favored to your lead foot, the ball should be positioned for the shot you want to hit (low, medium or high) and maybe most importantly, your hands must be positioned so that they are hanging naturally from your shoulders. I firmly believe that great pitch shots cannot be hit if the hands are too close or too far from your body.

The easy way to check this is to release your left hand from the grip, and let it hang naturally, then move the club so that the left hand can take its hold. The clubhead will then determine how far from the ball you should be. To me, that is the ideal position from which to make a good pitch shot.

Second is the club/swing path. I believe the proper path for good pitch shots has the hands moving straight back along a path that is nearly parallel to the target line, and the through swing moving left after impact. This path is set up by the more open stance at address. The gurus write extensively about swing path, and they all seem to pretty much agree on this as a fundamental. Taking the club back too far inside the line is probably more damaging than too far outside, as the latter is really pretty hard to do actually. My observations of recreational golfers indicate that the inside backswing path is “set up” by the ball being too close or too far from their feet at address, as I explained earlier.

I also believe (from observation and experience) that many recreational golfers do not engage their torso enough in routine pitch shots. This is NOT an arm swing; a rotation of the shoulders is tantamount to good pitch shots, and the shoulders must keep rotating through impact. Stopping the rotation at impact is, in my observation, the main cause of chunks and bladed shots, as that causes the clubhead to move past the hands and get out of plane.

Finally, I’ll address swing speed. Again, in my observation, most recreational golfers get too quick with this part of the game. The swing is shorter for these shots, but that should not make it quicker. One of my favorite analogies is to compare golf to a house painter. In the wide-open areas, he uses a sprayer or big roller for power, and works pretty darn quickly. As he begins to cut in for the windows and doors, he chooses a smaller brush and works much more slowly and carefully. Finally, he chooses very specialized trim brushes to paint the window and door trim, baseboards, etc. I like to compare our wedges to the painter’s trim brushes. Slow and careful wins.

I think learning distance control is the hardest part of becoming a good pitcher of the ball. And there are many approaches to this part of the equation. My opinion is that your expectations and therefore your approach to this aspect of it should be commensurate with your willingness to spend the time on the range or course. And I just do not know of a short cut, I’m sorry to say. But I will share something that I’ve learned works pretty well and is reasonably easy to learn.

First, find a “half swing” length that feels comfortable to you, and by that I mean repeatable. For most, it seems to be where the lead arm is about parallel to the ground. From that position, I like to think of three different downswing speeds – country road (i.e. 50 mph), neighborhood driving (30 mph) and school zone (15 mph). We’ll leave freeway speed for the driver, and regular highway speed for our fairways, hybrids and irons.

If you can internalize what these three speeds feel like for you, it only takes a little time to figure out how far each wedge goes at these three speeds, and then you can further dissect this by gripping down on each wedge to cut those gaps even tighter.

Again, I’m limited by space in this blog, but these ideas will hopefully get you thinking about meaningful practice and implementation. And in no way, are these few words intended to cover the subject as thoroughly as Pelz, Utley and others have done in series of books and videos. The more you learn and practice, the better you will get. That’s just the facts.

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19th Hole

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