Cougars alumni swinger Petersen made golf his livelihood

As the only scratch golfer among the 24 Prince George Cougar alumni players whose services were being auctioned off for charity Friday at CN Centre, Chris Petersen was a steal of a deal among the high rollers in attendance.
Petersen's prowess on the course two years ago at Prince George Golf and Curling Club helped raise the fortunes of the winning foursome at the Cougars Alumni Hospital Charity Golf Tournament and the 43-year-old's reputation as a heavy hitter with pinpoint accuracy remains intact.
His popularity as a potential difference-maker in today's tournament drew a high bid of $500 at the eighth-annual Cougars Alumni Association/Sprit of the North Healthcare Foundation event, which is raising money for cardiac care equipment at University Hospital of Northern B.C.
As good as he was as a six-foot-three, 220-pound power forward, the native of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., admits he became better at golf than he ever was at hockey. Petersen's love for golf started the year after he left the Cougars in 1997 to play minor pro in balmy climes of California for the Bakersfield Fog of the West Coast Hockey League.
"We'd practice in the morning from nine till 10 and hit the golf course by 10:30 to play a round and I just fell in love with it," said Petersen. "It was fun to play down in Bakersfield. We had a real good team and just the setup there where we had a membership and played golf all the time and that kind of spurred me on to something else.
"I was just falling in love with the whole golf thing and at that point obviously you're thinking your going to be a professional golfer but it ended up being a golf pro thing. I still see it with guys who play hockey all year long, when spring comes along, they'll train in the morning and then go play golf, it goes hand in hand."
Petersen was hired for three summers in the clubhouse at PGGCC while he was with the Cougars. After he retired from hockey he attended a three-year golf management program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton and worked 14 years as a clubhouse pro at two Edmonton courses, Derrick Golf and Winter Club and RedTail Landing. Now based in Sherwood Park, he's spent the past 12 years as an environmental consultant in the oil and gas industry.
Golfing is one of the most popular activities for hockey players in the off-season and Petersen says that passion for tee shots and putting is starting to grow in his 13-year-old son Caden. Petersen married a Prince George girl, Cindy (nee Halovich) and they also have a 10-year-old daughter, Gemma.
One of the original Cougars when the team moved north from Victoria in 1994, Petersen played two years in Prince George, after two seasons in Victoria before the franchise shifted. Like any of the Cougars who played in the old Coliseum that first season and then moved to the brand-new Prince George Multiplex the following season, Petersen has fond memories of playing for the fans in a hockey-mad city that showed its love for the Cats by packing the building. In those days it wasn't unusual to have 4,000 people watching the teams warm up for games, a far cry from the moribund atmosphere he left behind in Victoria.
"It was different in Victoria because there wasn't much support, it was a destination for older people who didn't necessarily follow hockey and we didn't have that great a team and we moved up to Prince George and then it was a heyday," said Petersen. "It was awesome."
Today's tournament reunited Petersen with his Cougar teammates - defenceman Eric Brewer and forwards Ronald Petrovicky, Shawn Gendron and Rob Voltera. They picked up where they left off when they last donned Cougar uniforms in 1996, the year the team advanced to the third round of the WHL playoffs for the first time. Petersen still occasionally sees Rob Butz, the original Prince George captain, who lives in Sherwood Park, and Quinn Hancock, now a resident of Calgary.
Petersen played a practice round Friday at PGGCC and he said the usual suspects, Brewer, Dan Hamhuis and Andrew Luciuk, who won the tournament last year, will be solid bets to be the frontrunners today.
Hamhuis, 36, now entering the second year of his two-year contract with Nashville Predators, spends his off-season in Smithers. He's one of four active NHL'ers who played junior hockey for the Cats. Winger Brett Connolly, now with the Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and Boston Bruins d-man Zdeno Chara did not make the alumni trip.
This weekend's golfing reunion of former Cats also includes goalie Kyle Stanton (2000-03), winger Brett Parker (2002-05), centre Dan Lapointe (2003-05), centre Eric Hunter (2002-07) and defenceman Cody Carlson (2010-12).
All three players from last year's graduating class - forwards Josh Curtis and Mike MacLean and defenceman Joel Lakusta are back for their first alumni golf experience.
Cougars business vice-president Andy Beesley dedicated the tournament festivities to Gary 'The Commish' Samis, who died of a heart attack in May. Samis was the founding organizer of the tournament and the team plans to carry it on in his memory.
A Vancouver Canucks jersey with Samis's name on the back attracted a bid of $16,000. Former Cougar head coach Ed Dempsey drew a bid of $7,500, Hamhuis sold for $5,000 and Brewer's rights went for $4,250.
 

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