For Berry, hockey's loss was golf's gain
Don Berry won't have to search too hard to come up with a couple of ideas for his Christmas wish list: One, a new trophy case. Two, some new luggage.
The 53-year-old PGA Professional, 2002 National PGA Professional Player of the Year and Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame member added to his long list of tournament accomplishments this summer, winning the Minnesota PGA Professional Championship in August, then following that up with a victory in the Minnesota PGA Senior Professional Championship one month later.
2015 SENIOR PGA PROFESSIONAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Complete coverage
It's believed to be the first time anyone in that Section has held both titles in the same season. And it virtually guarantees that Berry, the Head Professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, Minn., will earn Player of the Year honors in both categories.
"It's been a good year," Berry said in what might be a tremendous understatement.
While Berry successfully defended his 2014 Senior PGA Professional title, he hadn't won the Section PGA Professional since 2012. He now has nine of them, his first coming in 1997.
So which was harder to win? Berry said as he's getting older, it's getting more difficult to beat the younger guys.
"I think our Section Senior PGA had over 50 players, and the regular PGA was over 100, so just the numbers alone makes it harder to win the regular one," Berry said. "And as I tell the guys at the club, it’s easier to beat the gray-haired guys than it is the brown-haired ones. The regular one’s a little harder, but nevertheless, it’s great to win either one. I’m honored to do so."
That also means Berry can fill in a few dates in his upcoming calendar, beginning with this week's Senior PGA Professional National Championship in Monterey, Calif. He finished 28th in 2012, was runner-up in 2013 and 29th in 2014, so he's no stranger to playing well in national events.
Plus, he's seen the Bayonet and Black Horse courses and knows what to expect: a difficult but picturesque round of golf.
"I played a tour school at the Bayonet maybe 15 years ago and played at the National Club Pro at both courses maybe five or six years ago, so I’ve played them a couple of times," Berry said.
"They’re very difficult with a lot of trees. On the scorecard, it doesn’t look like they’re that long, but they play long. But they’re really nice, beautiful courses and very well designed. It’s an old-style course that looks modern. It’s very good golf."
Next June, Berry will head for Verona, N.Y., and the PGA Professional Championship. If past performance is any indication -- tied for second in 2001 and tied for third in 2002 -- expect him to do well there, too.
So what is it about tournament golf that really gets Berry's competitive juices flowing?
"I don’t know. I just really enjoy it," Berry said. "I practice a little bit at the club here to play in tournaments. And when I get in a tournament, I realize, ‘Hey, this is why I spend time hitting balls or chipping and putting after work.’ It’s to plan to play in these things."
And it's a trait Berry's had for a long time.
"I’ve enjoyed it since I was a kid," he said. "I can remember as a junior golfer, really looking forward to playing in tournaments. I couldn’t wait for it. And it’s still like that. I enjoy tournament golf."
Berry first picked up a club when he was 6, and began taking the game seriously by 12 or 13. But it was a different sport that got him into college.
"I played quite a bit of hockey growing up," Berry said. "In my freshman year of college at Augsburg, we ended up winning the NCAA Division III national championship. I loved the hockey part, but I really wanted to play golf. So after my freshman year, I decided to transfer to a junior college in Arizona to play golf."
Hockey's loss was golf's gain.