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2009 Tennessee Amateur Champion Peter Malnati captures second PGA TOUR victory at the Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — For the first time since November 2015, Peter Malnati is back on top of the PGA TOUR. The Dandridge, Tennessee native battled from two shots back during the final round of the Valspar Championship on Sunday to capture his second win on TOUR.

Malnati found himself just two shots back of Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell after 54 holes at the Valspar. After an even-par front nine, Malnati put his game into high gear at the turn, birdieing the first three holes to pull into a tie for the lead with Cameron Young. A birdie on 17 and a par on 18 secured his first PGA TOUR victory in 3,058 days.

“You always wonder if it’s ever really going to happen again. My goal is simply to keep improving and go out and do my best,” Malnati said. “It’s become so competitive, I feel like it’s an accomplishment just to keep your status on the TOUR.”

Malnati is a 10-year PGA TOUR veteran and has seen the level of play continue to rise. He’s risen with it, earning 41 Top-25 finishes in 259 events played at the PGA TOUR level. Malnati’s influence on the TOUR extends beyond the course, now serving as one of six player representatives on the PGA TOUR Policy Board. But last Sunday was about what happened on the course and after so many years where hoisting the trophy at any given event felt out of reach, this one felt different.

“This time I knew I was playing really well the past few weeks,” Malnati said. “I went to the tee on Sunday determined to not let the situation be a distraction and keep the good positive momentum going… I told [my son] Hatcher, ‘Can I have a hug and kiss, daddy’s going into golf mode’ and I told him the next time I hug it will be on the green on 18.”

Malnati kept his promise to his oldest son, tapping in his putt for 67 at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, and then picking up Hatcher as he made his way across the 18th green in his purple cape to hug his dad. A winning moment for the Valspar Champion.

“This win for me, to have my wife and our boys come out on the green and greet me immediately after finishing the tournament was more than a dream come true,” Malnati said.

Back home in Tennessee, all eyes were on the final stretch of Malnati’s round. In Memphis, one set of eyes familiar with his game watched intently with bated breath.

“I was more nervous watching him play those last few holes than if I was the one hitting those shots,” Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Tim Jackson said. “But when he stuck that shot on 17, I knew he was going to get it done and I couldn’t be happier.”

Jackson and Malnati are no strangers to each other’s game. They’ve battled it out on the course a few times before. Just after Malnati’s 18th birthday, he and Jackson met in the finals of the 2005 Tennessee Match Play at Hillwood Country Club. Then a 36-hole match, Jackson bested Malnati 3 and 1 on the 35th hole.

“I was 18 [years old] playing with a guy who’s played in multiple Masters,” Malnati said, recalling that 2005 match. “I was just in awe while I played with him.”

But Malnati would return the favor in 2009 at the Tennessee State Amateur at The Honors Course. The Dandridge native fired a 12-under-par score over 72 holes, beating Jackson by four strokes.

“Peter turned it on and he certainly played solid that whole week,” Jackson said. “But coming down the stretch, when he hit a perfect drive on 15, it was pretty clear who was winning the State Amateur that year.” 

It was the amateur title that arguably jump-started his professional career. The Honors Course is the ultimate test for golfers and Malnati rose to the occasion against a star-studded field.

“It’s a major highlight of my entire golfing career winning the State Amateur, especially in a state with such a rich history as Tennessee and at The Honors Course and on top of that my mom was caddying for me,” Malnati said. “That was the moment I knew I could achieve great things in golf.”

Besides the winningest man in TGA history in Jackson, Malnati also came out victorious over other future PGA TOUR pros Wes Roach and Keith Mitchell as well as 2009 Walker Cup team member Adam Mitchell. 2008 Tennessee State Amateur Champion Derek Rende and future 2010 State Amateur Champion Jonathan Fly were also in the mix at The Honors Course. Steven Fox, 2012 US Amateur Champion & 2013 Tennessee State Amateur Champion, finished T15.

And while he may have gone over eight years between TOUR wins, Malnati is no stranger to success. Before his two PGA TOUR wins, Malnati won twice on the Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) and on the eGolf Professional Tour. Before those, two victories at the Nebraska Open as a professional and a win at the Missouri Open as an amateur in 2008 while attending the University of Missouri.

“It speaks well to him,” Jackson said. “He’s always been a grinder, a battler… he’s also a good family guy, very classy and respectful. He would be the model Tennessean, he’s the one who you want your kids to be like.” 

And as far what Jackson thinks this win means for Malnati and his future… 

“I’m thinking his best golf is in front of him,” Jackson said. “The next four, five years could be the best stretch of his golf career.”