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Storybook ending part of Cat's tale

The three-paragraph item appeared on Jan. 24, 1994 in the Niagara edition of The Buffalo News. A car crash on icy Dysinger Road in Lockport. The driver of one vehicle, traveling alone, loses control and is killed in the ensuing collision. One of the four people in the other car, a pregnant mother of two, is admitted to the hospital for observation. For "Cat" Peters, a Clarence senior and one of Western New York's elite girls golfers, this is where her life begins.

Tracey Peters went into early labor as a result of the crash and gave birth to Cat the day the story appeared. But for almost the next three years Tracey and Dale were forced to spend too many days and nights wondering how long they would have her.

"She was a very sick child," Dale said. "She had immune system deficiency. She had upper respiratory issues. There was a couple times there we didn't think she was going to make it, to the point that she had monthly blood infusions. Nurses would come to the house and give her a four-hour blood infusion. We both worked at time. We were out of vacation, out of paid days. We just didn't know where to turn and she was still sick.

"And then this one day when she was about 3, it was just gone. There was nothing wrong with her. She went from being a very sick child to where she hasn't stopped since."

Peters is about to become the most distinguished graduate of Section VI girls golf. She might not have the title long. Lancaster's Chelsea Dantonio, a freshman, edged Peters by a stroke in the Section VI championships Wednesday at Gowanda Country Club (78 to 79). Dantonio also won the crown as a seventh-grader. Doubtless she'll tee it up as the girl to beat the next three years.

But for now Peters is the one of those Betsy Ulmer points to when she talks about the fruits of opportunity. Ulmer began pushing in 2000 to get girls golf in the public high schools. Six years ago, her efforts reaped reward when the three Williamsville schools combined to field a team. Other schools began to follow the lead. Fourteen schools in the section now offer girls golf, and 10 were represented at Wednesday's championships.

Yet it's all still a work in progress. Talented Depew eighth-grader Sarah Godfrey-Singleton is a one-girl crew for the Wildcats. Liselette Engler is the team at Sweet Home. The Clarence girls team was born just last year, with immediate fanfare. Peters won the Section VI title and placed fourth in the 7-year-old state competition. Dale and Tracey sent emails to college coaches complete with video links of her swing. Those communications and Cat's play in some regional junior golf events aroused curiosity among college coaches.

"Somewhere near the middle part of last summer the bigger schools started to show up," Dale said. "It culminated in a tournament over at Ravenwood [near Rochester]. Louisville and Michigan showed up and they followed her. Michigan recruited I think six girls last year and only picked one, and Cat was the choice."

Michigan! That made her a "family hero," Dale said. His grandfather went to Michigan and his side of the family has had a Wolverine bias ever since.

Cat began playing informally around age 9 and immediately caught the bug. She seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the golf swing, the ability to simplify its complexities. She became a fixture on the range at Brookfield. She increased her driving distance to 230 through regular workouts with Bob Gosch at Discover Golf. Her swing, long and fluid, would fit right in on an LPGA range.

To see her in action now is to marvel at her back story and to know what Dale means when he says, "From then until now, you couldn't have scripted it any better."