Brian Peccie '16 didn't pick up a golf club until he was in sixth grade. Less than a decade later, he was a national champion.
Peccie, who won the Division III national title as a sophomore at Washington and Lee University, laid out his path to success Tuesday to Norfolk Academy golfers. He is one of several alumni who are speaking via Zoom this spring to NA student-athletes.
Teacher-Coach Tom York gave Peccie his first set of clubs. “He was very dear to my heart," Peccie said of Mr. York, who passed away in April.
Peccie came to enjoy golf, but he also played soccer and basketball at NA. When he graduated, he wasn't thinking intently about playing in college. He brought his clubs to Washington and Lee freshman year figuring he'd try out but wouldn't lose sleep if he didn't make the team.
Thanks to an incredible shot on his third tryout hole that staved off disaster, Peccie made the squad. “Golf, from that point on, became a priority for me," he said.
He showed up for every practice - nine holes of competition plus range work - ready to go. He also learned that the key to success is not simply pounding balls, but focusing on a few things needed to improve your score.
As an example, Peccie was struggling in the spring of his sophomore year. One practice, after hitting a 9-iron shot particularly well, his coach told him to end on that high note and go home.
Just a few months later, he won the national title.
“Not too often we get a national champion to speak to us," Athletics Director Chad Byler reminded the student-athletes.
Peccie was not a one-year wonder. As a junior, he was a finalist for the Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award and earned PING First Team All-America honors. That year, he beat out the entire Division I field at a tournament at Savannah Harbor. The COVID-19 pandemic cut short his senior season.
Some of the students who listened to Peccie are considering playing in college. He advised them not to be intimidated if they end up competing against golfers from bigger-name schools. The gap between Division I and Division III is not that great in golf, he said. “It is golf. At the end of the day you're trying to put up scores."
Time management is crucial at the next level, Peccie said. Collegiate athletes must balance schoolwork with practices, games, and other activities. They need to make choices.
“Stay focused on what means the most to you," he advised.
Peccie graduates this spring. Soon, he's scheduled to start work in Illinois for a middle market investment bank - which help with transactions between buying and selling companies.
His golf career is not over, though. He plans to compete in amateur tournaments.