Berg seeks another shot at PGA’s best players
Mike Berg is at it again.
For the second time in his golf playing career, Berg is on the verge of accomplishing what most golfers would love to do just once in their lifetime – qualify for the U.S. Open.
The first time around for the Detroit Lakes’ product came in 2007, when he qualified for the U.S. Open, which was held at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.
After over a four-year layoff of being a regular golfer, Berg decided to test himself again and play in a U.S. Open local qualifier, although it almost didn’t happen.
“The deadline to register for the local qualifier was April 23, at 4 p.m.,” Berg said. “I just got my entry in at 3:30 p.m. I had to make sure I was ready to do this again.”
Berg made the trip to Bakker Crossing Golf Club in Sioux Falls, S.D., and outshot the field of 36 players vying for two Sectional qualifying spots with a three-under par 69.
Not too shabby considering Berg only had the time to take a “few shots” in between his busy duties as restaurant and bar manager at the Detroit Country Club’s Brassie’s Bar and Grill in Detroit Lakes.
“I was able to sneak out at times and hit some shots, which ended up being in a lot of rain and cold with how the spring went,” Berg said. “But I thought I had a good chance (in Sioux Falls) and took the mentality of winning medalist.”
The day of the local qualifier was windy with fast greens, which usually makes it for difficult putting.
Not for Berg, as he sunk the majority of his putts, not three-putting throughout his 18-hole round, while making only one bogey on the day.
“I saved pars with my putting,” Berg said. “I also had the advantage of playing with Brandon Askew, who I know from Fargo and we were able to feed off each other. I just putted better (Askew finished with a 74).”
Danny Sinksen and Max Donohue, each of Sioux Falls, both shot a 71 and had a playoff. Sinksen, who is the head professional at Elmwood Golf Course in Sioux Falls, made a par to win the final berth.
“Playing versus the local golfers, who are familiar with the course, was a challenge, but my goal was to win another USGA medalist (honor),” Berg said.
The Sectional qualifiers are dubbed the “longest day of golf,” as there will be 10 sites in the United States and one in each of Japan and England.
Berg was able to land his first choice location of Springfield Country Club in Springfield, Ohio.
There will be 63 players competing for four to six spots in the U.S. Open, which is a 36-hole one-day grind on Monday, June 2.
In 2007, Berg won the Sectional qualifier held at Indian Hills GC in Kansas City, Mo.
Berg shot a 73 for his first 18-hole round, but followed that up with a meet-best five-under par 67 to win medalist laurels and a berth in the U.S. Open.
“You need endurance to finish 36 holes,” Berg said. “You need to be smart with nutrition and rest leading up to the qualifier and staying hydrated. I can draw on my experience from Kansas City in Ohio.”
When Berg played in the U.S. Open, which was held at one of the toughest golf courses at Oakmont C.C., he felt he belonged and he proved it.
Despite not making the cut, Berg finished with a two-day score of 156 (81-75), but he either beat or tied with some of the best the PGA has to offer in Ryan Palmer, Colin Montgomerie, Steve Elkington, Johnson Wagner, Robert Karlsson and Steve Marino.
He also topped one more name Berg is quite proud of beating was Adam Scott, who was ranked No. 4 in the world in 2007 and currently holds the top spot entering the U.S. Open.
“I never felt out of place there, but felt fortunate and gracious,” Berg said. “It felt like home.”
Angel Cabrera ended up winning the U.S. Open in 2007, which was his first major win of his career.
But fast forward to 2014 and Berg wants another taste of the U.S. Open and he will use what got him there the first time - routine.
“My biggest piece of advice to any young golfer is to stick to your routine when you’re playing,” Berg said. “Whatever you do before taking a shot, do it the same way all the time.
“It’s like riding a bike, be conscious of your own routine.”
That’s exactly what Berg proved after taking a long layoff from playing regular golf.
Now, Berg wants to add a second U.S. Open berth to his routine and it’s closer than most get to a first time.