Remembering Jan Peterson

From left to right: Ron Bland, Jan Peterson, Joe Dusby, Matt Stanley, and the author, Michael Flynn, during the Washington State Open Golf Tournament at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland.

Aug. 14 would seem to be just another ordinary day on the calendar. Although  when you dig a bit deeper, you may find that Aug. 14, like every other day, can have significance. For example, well known people were born on Aug. 14 including Magic Johnson, Halle Berry, Pee Wee Reese, Doc Holiday, Claude Vernet, David Crosby, and Steve Martin. Further, Emperor Constantine, David Farragut, Enzo Ferrari, Pope Pius II, Judge John Sirica, and Edward Bennet Williams all died on Aug. 14. Sadly, Jan Eric Peterson, a 1969 graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, past president of the Washington State Bar Association, past president of the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, ACLU lawyer, and founding partner of the Peterson, Wampold, Rosato, Feldman and Luna law firm, died peacefully on Aug. 14, 2022. He is sorely missed.

The author leaves it to others to chronicle the extensive list of extraordinary professional accomplishments and contributions Jan made to the legal profession in service to his clients and fellow lawyers and citizens of Washington state. I will also leave it to others to convey the impact Jan had on every person he met. Suffice it to say that Jan, who grew up in the Tri-Cities area, reached out far beyond it to make the lives of many people better.

Rather, I choose to shade this tribute to Jan as a golfing buddy. Jan was a sports guy and into everything having to do with the Seattle sports scene. As a season ticket holder for the Seattle Mariners from the beginning, Jan loved baseball and could stump anyone with his knowledge of the sport. Add to that his passion for the Sonics, the Storm, the Sounders, the Seahawks, the Huskies (and even the Zags), boxing, and golf, Jan was well rounded and well versed in sports. But I knew him best as a golf partner in hundreds of rounds of golf over 35 years. 

Beginning in the 1980s, another attorney friend, Ron Bland, heard of a unique golf game brought back from Vancouver Island, inhabited by the Cowichan Tribe, to the Seattle area. This golf game— simply and ironically named the “All-American Game”—captivated all of us who played golf together. Here are the basics, although as would be expected when a bunch of golfing lawyers get together, there is disagreement and controversy over different points in the game. We begin with the standard that every point or unit earned in a golf match is worth $1. No one attempted to up the ante, as we were all afraid of losing money and were quite cheap. Further, there is no handicap involved in this game—every player plays his or her own ball. The following is a list of how a golfer could win or lose points:

  • 5 points for shooting the lowest score on the first nine holes.
  • 5 points for shooting the lowest score on the second nine holes.
  • 5 points for shooting the lowest score for all 18 holes.
  • These first three point-getters pay homage to real golf and give this game legitimacy by rewarding the best player on that day.
  • 1 point for winning any hole.
  • 1 point for a birdie and double points for birdies on consecutive holes. See infra, Explanation of Consecutives.
  • 1 point for an eagle and triple points for consecutive eagles. Id.
  • 1 extra point for winning a hole with par and then winning the next hole with another par—commonly referred to as “consecutives.” Many lawyers who played this game offered suggestions for expanding this point-getter to include a point for consecutives even if the player did not win the next hole—an expansive interpretation of this rule. All rule decisions were the province of the de-facto guardians and Commissioners of the game, Ron Bland and Jan. Because of the strict constructionist views of the commissioners, most if not all of the suggestions were dismissed under the guise of maintaining the competitive nature of the game. This has been a consistent item of contention for many years. 
  • 1 point for closest to the pin on a par three and double points for a sweep of all of the par 3s.
  • 1 point for a “sandy,” which is getting out of a sand trap in one shot and making a par on the hole. This applied to all sand traps whether in the fairway or near a green. The multiple sandy occurred when a player after getting out of a sand trap multiple times on a hole also made a par score for the hole. Multiple points would be awarded based on the number of times a player was in a sand trap and made par on the hole. The multiple sandy was  a not unusual occurrence because of the lack of skill of the players.
  • 1 point for a sand shot stopping within 6 inches of the flagstick, also known as a “Schlongie.”
  • 1 point for a sand shot stopping within 12 inches of the flagstick also known as a “Wilt” in recognition of the legend of Wilt Chamberlain.
  • 1 extra point for making a par despite a ricochet off a tree, also known as a “Barkie.”
  • 1 point for any shot into a green that was within the length of the flagstick, also known as a “Flaggy.”
  • 1 point for making a putt longer than the length of the flagstick, also known as a “Cowichan.”
  • 1 point for a chip-in from off the green.
  • 1 point subtracted for each shot that failed to get out of a sand trap, also known as a “Leavie.”
  • 1 point subtracted for every three-putt on a green.

This is a golfing game that requires extensive scorekeeping acumen, and many a player has failed to earn or lose points based on the failure to account for all points earned or lost. Golfers who failed to pay attention to the game during a round of golf did so at their own peril. Discussion of the final point totals at the conclusion of a round of golf were friendly but could become heated. These discussions usually involved either the player who felt cheated after a particularly good round, or a disappointed player angling to cut losses, and occurred in the clubhouse or at dinner later that evening.

It should be noted that many suggestions for additional rules, as referenced in the previous discussion of “consecutives,” have occurred over the years as some players got better and some players got worse. For example, one proposition was to add as a point-getter a “Muddy” also known as a “Muddy Waters.” This suggested  point-getter required a golfer to make a par on a hole when a golf ball was covered with mud. This seemed an especially appropriate addition given the number of rounds played on the rain-soaked terrain of the Jackson Park, Jefferson Park, and West Seattle golf courses. This suggestion was vetoed as unmanageable given the conditions. Further, the suggestion was made to add a point-getter called a “Skimmer,” which would  be awarded after a particularly bad shot skimmed through a water hazard and the golfer was still able to make a par. This suggestion was rejected on multiple grounds, including that awarding a point for such a pitiful shot would not be in keeping with the integrity of golf and that a “Skimmer” was indeed a rare occurrence. As lawyers, we viewed this as an exception of extraordinarily little value.

Given the somewhat authoritarian view taken about point-getter expansion, the beauty of the “All-American Game” is in its democratic and competitive nature. This golf game means that even the worst golfer has a chance to earn points. For example,  a player could make a birdie on a hole and win the hole, earning two points, while another golfer could make a sandy, a flaggy, and a schlongie and earn three points, winning the point battle for the hole. This is truly a golfing game where players are never out of the game no matter how poorly they play, and no players are safe no matter how well they play. The “All-American Game” truly levels the playing field and proves the adage that every stroke counts.

The author appreciates that this tribute to Jan Peterson pales in comparison to the good that Jan did in his life as a respected and skilled lawyer and person. However, sometimes it is the friendship lost that is the biggest loss when a person like Jan passes on. The author hopes that this tribute brings a smile to your face and a good feeling about Jan. He was my true friend, and I love him and will miss him. Godspeed and FORE!

About the author

Mike Flynn is a graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, admitted to the Washington State Bar Association in 1977, and a 35-year golfing buddy of Jan. He is currently a professor of law at the NSU College of Law in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.