Like so many of us, Peter Bernhardt found his love of sports from his family. His parents took their love of sports and instilled it in him at a young age, sharing their passion and formulating a bond over it.
That’s about the only part of Peter’s story, though, that’s “traditional”.
Peter’s mother was from Liechtenstein and so, instead of growing up playing traditional American sports, Bernhardt’s mom introduced him to the world of skiing and tennis. Bernhardt’s father swam for the University of Oklahoma, so they introduced him to the world of swimming as well.
“My mom was an avid snow skier and tennis player,” Peter explained. “Starting at age 4 or 5 we combined visits to my grandmother in Liechtenstein with yearly ski trips to Switzerland. Because of my father’s love of the pool, my mother also introduced me to swimming at about the same age and had me join a swim team.”
While Peter’s mom and dad were getting him into swimming, skiing, and tennis, it was Peter’s grandfather who introduced him to golf, with a little help from a golfing buddy.
“My grandfather (father’s side) was an avid golfer,” Bernhardt added. “He was friendly with Art Wall (’59 Masters) and my first golf lesson was with Art.”
As Peter got older, he began gravitating more towards those “traditional” sports, adding football and basketball to his list. However, he was still an avid tennis player and also tested the waters of the golf team, that was, until an unfortunate injury derailed his pursuit…or at least so he thought.
“My senior year of HS, now sick of tennis, I tried out for the golf team and made it,” Peter said. “Unfortunately, I broke my ankle in a pick-up basketball game and my budding golf career came to a halt before it started.”
While many may have given up golf at that point and started turning to what was next, Peter decided to give it one more go with the encouragement of his father.
“Fast forward to college,” Peter continued. “My father retired and along with my stepmother moved down to Boca Raton. On one of my trips home from college, my father suggested that I give golf another try. I was quickly hooked.”
In fact, Peter re-kindled his love for the game so much that he immediately dove back in head first, getting down to a single-digit handicap within a year of picking back up his clubs again.
While he did achieve his goal of being a scratch golfer at that time, he got awfully close.
“My last year of law school, I did an externship my last semester and that ended in mid-April,” Peter said. “From mid-April until the bar exam, I worked harder on my golf game than I did studying for the bar exam. My goal was to get to scratch. I came close (hovered around a 1 or 2 hcp) but never got there until my late 30s. I was playing a minimum of twice a week and practicing quite a bit. I hovered around scratch (even got to the plus side of a short bit) for a solid 10 years. I actually won 4 straight club championships from 2004 to 2007 and lost my 5th straight in the finals in 2008.”
To this day, Peter’s love of golf has never faltered. While he may never have been good enough to turn pro, his love and passion for the game have helped him learn valuable lessons on and off the course that have helped in business, and in life.
“In order to be successful you need to not only be physically ready for the moment, but you have to be mentally ready,” Peter said.
Golf has also afforded him opportunities to build connections and relationships, relationships that have helped him be successful in business.
“Sports also offer a vehicle to find commonality with other people,” Bernhardt explained. “That allows you to make the type of personal connections/relationships off of which you can build long-term friendships. There is nothing better than doing business with friends or solving business problems by introducing a friend in need to another friend who can offer a solution for that need.”
A prime example of that is a meeting he had with Ken Kennerly back in 1997 on, you guessed it, the golf course.
“I had a membership to Ironhorse and played every weekend without fail,” Peter said. “I met Ken and shortly thereafter became his general counsel. Through Ken, I represented most of the players in his stable.”
Today, Peter works for business advisory and advocacy law firm McDonald Hopkins, recently being named the Managing Member of the Firm’s West Palm Beach office. He also sits on the company’s Board of Directors. Over the years he has been the recipient of numerous awards including twice being named as a Lawyer of the Year in Construction Law.
Despite all his accomplishments, the one thing that has never faltered is his love of golf, something that he hopes to continue to be able to do for the rest of his life.
“I still look forward to every golf game. I hope that feeling never goes away.”