PGA Tour rookie Daniel Berger's career rising faster than he expected

Daniel Berger
USA Today Sports Images
Daniel Berger got into golf as a youth in part because of his father's friendship with tennis player and avid golfer Ivan Lendl.
Steve Waters
Sun Sentinel

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 | 6:36 p.m.


PALM BEACH GARDENS – It didn't take long after he started playing golf that Daniel Berger realized he wanted to make a career out of the game.

The PGA Tour rookie put together a plan that worked so well, he admitted that he's a little surprised as he prepares to play in his first Honda Classic.

"I think things have come pretty quick to me," said Berger, 21, who tees off at 7:05 a.m. Thursday on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa. "I've had this plan and I didn't expect it to quite go so smoothly, but it's nice that it did. It was a lot of hard work to get here, so I'm excited to see what the future has."

Born in Plantation, Berger lived in Miami for about 10 years until his father, Jay, a star tennis player, coach and head of men's tennis for the USTA, moved the family to Jupiter, where Berger has his own home today.

Berger, who plays tennis with his father, said he was about 11 when he became serious about golf. His sister was taking golf lessons, and when she couldn't go, Berger would fill in for her.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is a lot of fun,' and then I spent one summer and did a golf camp down in Miami and said, 'This is what I want to do,' and ever since then, this has been my whole plan," Berger said.

A big part of that plan was getting a job on the driving range at The Dye Preserve golf club in Jupiter when he was 13. He said his father called "one of his old tennis buddies, Ivan Lendl." Lendl called Matt Doyle, who is now the director of golf at the club, and Doyle gave Berger the chance to pick up balls at the range and practice.

"I basically picked the range every day," Berger said. "I got out of class at 12:30. My sister would drive me to the golf course, she'd drop me off and I'd jump straight in the picker and pick the range for about 45 minutes and put the balls on the range, and then I would just go back on the range and hit balls and do my short game thing.

"I got really good at picking the range. I was the best range picker you've ever seen."

While at The Dye Preserve, Berger had the opportunity to play with several PGA Tour players. One of his favorites is Steve Marino, who is one of his mentors as well as a good friend. They played together three times last week to get Berger ready for the Honda.

Berger said he was 14 the first time he beat Marino in a nine-hole match.

"I think I shot 1 or 2 under and he was so pissed," Berger said. "It was just a lot of fun: 14 years old and I beat a PGA Tour player. It was a cool experience for me, and that kind of motivated me to get better."

Berger went on to play golf at Florida State, then turned pro after his sophomore year. When he qualified for the Tour in the fall of 2013, he joined The Dye Preserve – "I've come a long way from picking the range," – and earned $209,286 in 2014 to finish 15th in the standings.

That got him a promotion to the PGA Tour. In 10 events this season, he's won almost $530,000 and had five top-25 finishes, including two ties for 10th. Now, he's looking forward to playing at home, in front of friends and family, on the Champion course's Bermuda grass.

"I'm used to the greens. I'm used to the rough. I'm used to it being windy," Berger said. "I'm just going to have some fun."

That sounds like a plan.

This article was written by Steve Waters from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.