Petrovics Dream Come True

By Mercer BaggsAugust 30, 2003, 4:00 pm
NORTON, Mass. -- Phil Mickelson is a wannabe ball player. Tim Petrovic is a used-to-be ball player.
 
I was a pitcher, Petrovic said of his baseball glory days. My dad was a (high school) baseball coach for 15 or 20 years and it looked like I was going to go that way.
 
But then something else his dad did made him change his ways.
 
He played golf and I picked the game up, Petrovic said.
 
Golf and baseball are contested in the same season in high school, meaning Petrovic had to choose between the two sports.
 
And you know the outcome of that dilemma.
 
The golfing bug sunk its teeth deep into Petrovic. Even when he kept a job working as a baker and delivery man at Pizza Hut, he spent his breaks hitting balls in the parking lot.
 
Born in Northampton, Mass., Petrovic made his way to the University of Hartford, where he became a Division I All-America selection and was later inducted into their Hall of Fame.
 
He turned professional in 1988 and bounced around from one mini-tour to another. It took 12 years before he gained even an increment of notoriety, when he topped the Golden Bear Tours money list in 2000 and was named Player of the Year.
 
That set the wheels in motion towards a PGA Tour destination.
 
He returned to the Nationwide Tour in 2001 ' where he also played in 1993 and 99 ' and it didnt take long to assure himself a spot on the next level.
 
Petrovic earned three top-3 finishes to start the season, and eventually ended seventh on the money list. In his rookie season on the primary circuit, he made 15 of 31 cuts, including a runner-up finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He concluded the year 86th in earnings, plenty good enough to give him a second shot in the Big Leagues.
 
This season, he has a pair of top-10s and has pocketed over $1 million. He entered this weeks Deutsche Bank Championship at 45th on the money list.
 
This is a homecoming of sorts for the 37-year-old Massachusetts native. But there is no added pressure ' at least not self-induced pressure.
 
I really had not given that much thought, Petrovic said of his return, soon after shooting 1-under 70 Saturday to stay in contention at the TPC of Boston at 7 under.
 
I was looking forward to this trip because I wanted to play the new course. I actually am a big fan of Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses.
 
And the Red Sox are playing the Yankees.
 
Petrovic tried to make Friday nights Boston-New York game at Fenway Park following his afternoon tee time.
 
I saw the last pitch, he said, adding that he got lost trying to find his way to the ballpark.
 
Petrovic said he ended up in a less-than-desirable area along the tangled way. I asked my dad if he wanted to get out, go for a little walk down the street, he joked. It was kind of dark. There werent many street lights.
 
But dont fret for this Red Sox fanatic. With tickets for the entire weekend series, he tried yet again to find Fenway Saturday afternoon following his morning 18.
 
He wont be able to make Sundays 2:05 PM game, however, as he has this little $5-million tournament to try and win.
 
And thats the way he would like it to be.
 
Because while Mickelson pines to play pitcher, Petrovics dream has already been realized. He doesnt want to be Pedro Martinez, or Carl Yastrzemski, or even the next Jim Morrison, who he lists among his heroes.
 
This is my dream. Ive always wanted to be a professional athlete ever since I was a kid, he said. It took me 14 years to get here. So Im living my dream.
 
That doesnt mean theres not a little gas left in Petrovics right gun. When asked if he could throw harder than Mickelson, who tops out at less than 70 mph, Petrovic just smiled and nodded.
 
If (Red Sox manager) Grady (Little) needs any help with middle relief, Ive got my glove; Ive been throwing for the past couple of days, he joked.
 
But dont expect him to head to Pawtucket, R.I. to tryout for the Red Sox minor league affiliate, like Mickelson did Friday with the Toledo Mud Hens.
 
I dont tryout for Triple-A teams; I try out for Major League teams, he said with a laugh.
 
And after several years in the golfing minors, he seems to have settled into the majors. Just where he always dreamed to be.
 
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