Death-row inmate Scott Peterson, a golfer gone wrong, back in the news with California's new moratorium on executions

March 15, 2019
Scott Peterson Transported To San Quentin Prison Death Row

Justin Sullivan

A familiar name resurfaced in headlines in the wake of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order putting a moratorium on executions of death row inmates on Wednesday.

Most notable among the state’s 737 death-row inmates is Scott Peterson, who in December of 2004 was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son in December of 2002. It became a story of national interest, one that was a subject of several television movies and documentaries.

Hence, the Associated Press referencing Peterson first in its Wednesday story headlined, "Notable inmates on California’s death row and their crimes: Scott Peterson is among the 737 inmates on the largest death row in the nation."

Back when Peterson was arrested, he made headlines in golf circles, too. Peterson was a graduate of University of San Diego High School, where he was Phil Mickelson’s teammate for two years, though Mickelson at the time said he had no recollection of Peterson.

In 1987, University, which had one of the strongest golf teams in the area, was scheduled to play in the California Interscholastic Federation-San Diego Section team championship on the same day a U.S. Open local qualifier was being held. The team reportedly concluded that Mickelson should play the local qualifier and Peterson, a freshman, replaced him in the CIF team championship.

Once Mickelson graduated, Peterson became the star of the University team. In his senior season, he tied for seventh in the CIF Individual Championship, six strokes behind winner Chris Riley.

“He was a tremendous kid and a tremendous golfer,” University’s coach at the time, Dave Thoennes, told David Hasemyer of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He was both popular and a leader.”

That was disputed by his teammate Ed Ventura, who told the Union-Tribune that “he was the biggest snob. He was always talking about how good his golf game was and how much better he was than the others.”

Peterson followed Mickelson to Arizona State, though he never played for the Sun Devils. He reportedly was thrown off the golf team. Golf Channel’s Randall Mell, then writing for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, reported that the father of future PGA Tour player Chris Couch was responsible for Peterson’s dismissal.

Chris had traveled to Tempe, Ariz., on a recruiting visit, and when father Chip picked him up at the airport upon his return he noticed his son was hungover, Mell wrote.

“I found out that Scott had taken Chris out drinking and meeting girls,” Chip told Mell. “I called the golf coach and told him I was very unhappy about that. Chris was the number one junior in the country, and they really wanted him to play there. The coach called back and told me that he had thrown Scott Peterson off the golf team.” Couch opted to go to the University of Florida.

Peterson wound up at Cuesta College, a community college in San Luis Obispo, Calif., playing on its golf team for two years.

On April 18, 2003, Peterson’s freedom ended. He was arrested on Callan Road, where it intersects with Torrey Pines Road and leads directly into the Torrey Pines Lodge and the golf course parking lot.