When Pete Peterson got home from the hospital following emergency gall bladder surgery, there was an e-mail waiting for him that he had been looking forward to for more than a year.
"He just printed it out and handed it to me," his wife, Jodi, said. "He was just shocked and happy."
The March e-mail notified Peterson that the United States Tennis Association had selected him as the fourth member of the U.S. men's 35 international tennis team.
Peterson, who grew up in Augusta and now lives in Boise, Idaho, will spend this week in Antalya, Turkey, competing for the United States in the Italia Cup. He will stay in Turkey the following week to compete in the world championships.
The Italia Cup is an international team competition for men 35 and older, sponsored by the International Tennis Federation, and is similar to the Davis Cup. The last time the U.S. team won the Italia Cup was in 1997. At the world championships, Peterson will be competing as an individual and vying for the No. 1 world ranking.
Peterson is no stranger to tennis championships. The Aquinas High School graduate attended three colleges and won national championships at two of them - Lander College in 1985 and North Greenville College in 1987.
But Peterson was passed over for last year's Italia Cup team. The 37-year-old pro considered it a snub and used that as motivation for this year.
"His frustration turned into total ambition," Jodi Peterson said.
Peterson made sure the committee couldn't overlook him this year. He's ranked seventh in the nation in the men's 35 division and 22nd in the world.
He finished third in singles in both the National Indoor Championship and National Grass Court Championship in 2003.
He also made himself more visible by playing in tournaments in cities where committee members live.
"I don't think it was very accidental," Peterson said of his appointment to the team.
After Peterson got word of his accomplishment, it wasn't long before the kid inside took over. He admitted to putting on his U.S. warm-ups as soon as they arrived. What he didn't say was how eagerly he awaited their arrival.
His wife compared him to the couples' two young boys waiting for new toys.
"Any boxes come for me today? Any?" Pete Peterson would ask Jodi every day.
When the warm-ups finally arrived, Jodi Peterson said Pete tried the jacket on immediately only to find the sleeves ended just below his elbows.
When the right size finally arrived, Jodi said her husband wouldn't take the jacket off for the next 12 hours.
Pete Peterson will get plenty of use out of his new warm-ups during his 17-day trip to Turkey. It's the longest Peterson has been away from his children - Sam, 7, and Max, 4 - and Jodi Peterson said the boys were sad to see their daddy go. But they enjoy bragging about his accomplishments.
Dad misses his kids too, but said he tries to make his trips a learning experience for his sons. He teaches them about the places he travels and hopes they see him as an example of how hard work pays off.
Jodi Peterson also misses him when he travels to tournaments, but understands the competitive drive that takes him away.
"In order to be Pete, he needs to be competing," Jodi Peterson said. "If I were to take that away from him I wouldn't have the same husband."
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3219 or email@example.com.
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