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Mike Barge has made just four bogeys through 36 holes at treacherous Oak Tree Golf Club. (Photo: PGA.com)
Mike Barge has made just four bogeys through 36 holes at treacherous Oak Tree Golf Club. (Photo: PGA.com)

Barge cards 68 for low club professional honors

Long known as one of the top golf instructors in Minnesota, Mike Barge turned in a career round Friday to make the weekend at the 67th Senior PGA Championship.

By Bob Denney, PGA of America

EDMOND, Okla. -- Mike Barge of Chanhassen, Minn., twice named one of the best golf instructors in the Minnesota PGA Section, proved Friday at Oak Tree Golf Club that he also practices what he preaches.

The PGA director of instruction for the past 20 years at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., Barge made a 12-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, his final of the day, for a 3-under-par 68. That gave the 51-year-old a 36-hole total of 1-under-par 141, the best two-day performance of 37 PGA senior club professionals in the field and easily making the cut in his Senior PGA Championship debut.

The 67th Senior PGA Championship, the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf, features 15 players who have combined for 44 major championships, and 35 international players representing 13 countries. On this day, Barge was on equal footing with the elite of the 50-and-older circuit.

"I am thrilled; it's such a hard golf course," said Barge, who last fall earned a Senior PGA Championship berth by tying for 29th in the Callaway Golf PGA Senior Club Professional Championship. "I shot 73 (Thursday), and I wasn't really sure I could do much better than that. I came out today and shot 32 on the back nine, and it was real, real special. I was probably more proud of my front side to make a bogey and a birdie and hang in there."

Barge said his second-round tour of Oak Tree was his top playing accomplishment as a professional. His only competitive outing since last fall was two weeks ago in the invitational Minnesota Golf Champions.

"This is the top, because I haven't done a whole lot. I played in the U.S. Senior Open last year and missed the cut. But, making the cut was my goal when I came here and I can keep on going now," said Barge. "It helps playing a hard golf course like that (Hazeltine) and seeing what you have here. This course is very, very penal. Every shot here is potential disaster. You really got to keep your mind in what you're doing."

Barge finds himself comfortably in position for the final 36 holes, and if the trademark Oklahoma wind blows, all the better.

"I certainly play in quite a bit of wind at home," said Barge, "and I teach in Texas during the winter. So, controlling the golf ball means not only straight, but high and low. I feel fine, and even with the heat, I drink a lot of water and am not carrying a lot of extra weight."

Barge did have a preview of Oak Tree Golf Club prior to his Senior PGA experience. He tied for 67th in the 2000 PGA Professional National Championship, with rounds of 74-78-80 in a Championship that was trimmed to 54 holes due to inclement weather.

In this trip to Oak Tree Golf Club, Barge managed his game with precision. He hit 14 greens, 12 fairways (two more than in the first round), and needed only 29 putts.

"I have been driving it real well the last couple of days," said Barge. "You have to hit the fairways, because if you miss, you won't have necessarily good angles to get to the green."

The 156-player field that began play Thursday was trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties following Friday's round. The Championship, featuring a $2 million purse, concludes Sunday.

The Senior PGA Championship was begun in 1937 at Augusta National Golf Club at the invitation of legendary Bobby Jones, and has since featured the game's legendary stars that have reached the age of 50.

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, The PGA of America was founded in 1916, and is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the game of golf, while continuing to enhance the standards of the profession. The Association is comprised of more than 28,000 men and women PGA Professionals who are dedicated to growing participation in the game of golf.

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