Daniel Berger, seeking the most important victory in his burgeoning career, had a nine-shot lead heading into the final round of the Dixie Amateur.
Not to worry?
Well, maybe just a little bit, but in the end Berger had everything tidily wrapped up, winning the tournament by 13 strokes.
He shot a mind-boggling, 22-under-par with rounds of 63-67-65-70 for a 265 total, and he basically could stroll the fairways of the Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs and admire the wildlife en route to the championship.
However, getting distracted is not in his nature, so he just kept grinding, not thinking about that crystal trophy until he could hold it above his head for what he called, “Certainly, the biggest victory of my life.”
Berger, a Florida State golfer, refused to take his recent success for granted.
“The way I approached it was win by as much as I can,” he said of the fourth round.
“It was a damage-control round. I was playing aggressively smart.”
Tom Lovelady of Birmingham, Ala., finished second, and Richard Werenski of South Hadley, Mass., finished third.
It was not a bad day or week for that matter for the ex-tennis player from Jupiter.
Berger was introduced to tennis by his father early in life but developed a passion for golf.
That meant saying so long to aces and net cords and exchanging them for birdies and bogeys.
“By far the smartest decision of my life,” Berger said of changing sports. “Also, to be a Florida State Seminole is fantastic.”
A year ago, Berger finished second in the Dixie Amateur to Curtis Thompson, finishing up as friends with a caveat.
Maybe a big caveat.
That would be the competitive angst between them.
“Curtis is a great guy, but on the course I still want to beat the heck out of him,” Berger said.
That also works in the opposite direction.
For his great showing in the tournament, Berger gave credit to his putter.
“To have that feeling that you’re going to make a putt, that’s really nice,” he said
Also, in a roundabout way, he gave credit to his mental path.
“We’re competitive,” he said of him and his family. “That’s just the way we are.”
Of course, Friday there wasn’t much competitiveness.
That’s what happens when you go out and win by 13 strokes.
“Just put the metal to the pedal,” Berger said.
Bill Van Smith
Final-round results: 1. Daniel Berger, Jupiter, 70-265 (-22); 2. Tom Lovelady, Birmingham, Ala., 74-278 (-9); 3. Richard Werenski, South Hadley, Mass., 71-279 (-8); 4. Trey Mullinax, Mount Olive, Ala., 74-280 (-7); 5. Hunter O’Mahoney, Tequesta, 72-281 (-6); Alex Carpenter, Little Rock, Ark., 72-281 (-6); 7. Tim Crouch, Lakeland, 72-282 (-5).
South beach event
Winds of up to 25 mph at Miami Beach Golf Club couldn’t have come at a worse time for golfers on the leaderboard heading into the final round of the South Beach International Amateur.
Several were disturbed by the conditions, but one player in particular would not be affected.
With a calm demeanor that served as the antithesis to the swirling winds, University of Arizona product and Mexican-born Juan Pablo Hernandez took home the trophy of the second-year event with a 3-under 68 in the final round.
He finished with a score of 273, which was enough to top Winter Springs’ Hank Lebioda, the runner-up, by four strokes.